There wasn't much progress made and the discussion did not really point to any tangible next steps. It did once again raise the question still to be answered, which is: what do we want?
The changing and aging demographics in New Hampshire and especially Moultonboro, create unique challenges to the towns ability to attract younger families.
School board member Jon Tolman noted that if we do nothing, the demographics will drive the change and will reach crisis point. We like our summer residents and retirees, but need working families to keep the schools viable. Summer people need services and amenities, older residents need medical and eldercare services and the younger demographics is the hardest to attract and keep. The lake will continue to bring summer residents and retirees.
Two areas where Moultonboro has some significant advantages are the low tax rate and an excellent school system. Both area are good selling points.
BoS Chair Chris Shipp restated the point Town Administrator Walter Johnson made a few months back that we can either be in the drivers seat and be proactive or sit in the passenger seat and let things go where they may. He was clear in reiterating that no one is proposing major changes to the town, but if we do nothing, change will happen anyway, some of which may not be welcome.
A few key topics in this discussion should be highlighted and some focused time and attention placed on them by professional marketers ,may help move this forward in a meaningful manner.
At the top of the list is to raise awareness. Many people have never even heard of Moultonboro. Get the word out about who we are, where we are and what we have to offer.
Why would younger people want to move here? Number one is by far is our school system. People I talk to would gladly sacrifice and make a longer work commute if it meant that their kids can get a quality education and live in a low crime, safe town. I don't and never have bought the argument that good jobs need to be right here in Moultonboro. If you draw a circle around our town and extend it out to about 50-60 miles, you will find there are many fairly easy commutes. It is not the exception today to travel a bit to get to your job, it is the norm.
Number two is close behind and that is a tax rate that is phenomenally low. You can afford more house in Moultonboro than just about anywhere else when you factor in how much less your tax bill will be.
Lastly, we need real data. How many people move in or out, how old, are they year round, family size, reason they moved in or out, where do they work etc.. It can be a fairly long list, but without it, we can sit around and continue to guess as to why things are the way they are.
The goal of all this at the end of the day, is to be able to maintain a balance. We will be mostly older for awhile, but that will change. We need to take some positive steps to attract and bring in some younger, year round families that will help keep our population stable. That is what I think most people mean when they say, we don't want Moultonboro to change. We also have to put aside the negative thinking from some of our elected officials or making positive change will be very, very difficult.
What should the next steps be? Hire a marketing firm and get the ball rolling. It's past time. No excuses about defining what we want to be. I don't think the answer will be much different then what I outlined above.