Chapter IV: Economic Base
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- INCOME CHARACTERISTICS
- Chart IV-1: Median Family Income
- Chart IV-2: Plainfield Household Income
- Chart IV-3: Family Income Distribution
- Table IV-1: Household Income
- Table IV-2: Poverty Thresholds - 2010
- Chart IV-4: Poverty Levels
- Table IV-3: Poverty Status by Age Group
- Table IV-4: Employment Status - 2010
- Table IV-5: Emplyment by Occupation
- Chart IV-8: Employment by Type of Work
- Table IV-6: Work Location and Commuting
- REGIONAL ECONOMIC TRENDS
- PROPERTY TAX BASE & RATES
- ECONOMIC POTENTIAL
- GOALS & RECOMMENDATIONS
At the core of any Master Plan is the belief that quality of life in a community requires a careful balancing of social and economic concerns. The 'quality of place' has become a major source of attractiveness for employees in a knowledge-based economy. To address the social concerns of the community surveys were conducted in 1987 and 1993 on community attitudes. The 1997 and 2003 Master Plans were guided by these concerns and a number of significant changes in the Plainfield by-laws have been made as a result of this consultation process.
One may usefully catalogue the community priorities, which have guided the Master Plan as follows:
- Preservation of the rural identity
- Social needs
- Livability of the community
- Transportation infrastructure
- Social capital
The Town of Plainfield is predominantly a rural residential community, with some modest but growing commercial and industrial activity. Most of the existing businesses are small and a number of residents are self-employed. The concentrations of commercial activity are in the villages of Meriden and Plainfield and along the State highways. Plainfield's economic base is closely tied to the regional economy. The majority of residents work and shop in the larger neighboring communities, particularly Hanover and Lebanon.
The environment, schooling, our natural resources, and the small-town character of the Town are important to the community. Clean air, clean rivers and streams, forests, agricultural fields, and scenic views, as well as the rural, smalltown quality of life, attract residents, tourists and businesses.
Data used in this chapter came from several sources, including the previous Plainfield Master Plan, the U.S. Census and American Community Surveys (2006-2010), and the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning.
The following is a brief summary of the results of the 1984 and 1993 Community Surveys. The surveys focused which directly on attitudes relative to economic development. A comparison of the results suggests that there was little change in the attitudes of Plainfield residents between surveys. In cases where the percentage of respondents are indicated, the most recent survey result is the number shown, otherwise it is the number which is shown first, followed by the result from the 1984 survey.
- A majority continue to want Plainfield to remain a rural/agricultural (51.1 %) or commuter/bedroom (18.8%) community. Even fewer (14.3% vs. 22.8%) now want Plainfield to become a light industrially-based town. Almost no respondents (1.5% and 1.1 %) have wanted to see Plainfield become commercially-based.
- A modest plurality (Yes [40.9%], No [32.5%], and Uncertain [26.6%]), want to see more commercial growth in Plainfield.
- The most favored types of future economic development continue to be: small, home-based businesses (92.2% and 87.9%); farms (70.0% and 92.2%); professional offices (43.4% and 62.5 %); and restaurants (43.2% and 51.4%).
- The least favored forms of economic development continue to be: heavy industry (90.1 %) and industrial parks (76.8% and 82%); shopping centers (83.3% and 88%); motels (56.6% and 78%); and office parks (46% and 63 %).
- A plurality (45.2%) continue to prefer additional commercial development to occur within or adjacent to village centers, while others (14.1 %) indicated their preference for development along Routes 12A and 120. A small number (9.9%) preferred it to be scattered throughout Town, or concentrated in commercial shopping center(s) outside village centers (5.6%).
- There was support (Yes [57.3%], No [41.3%]) for the establishment of commercial zones in Plainfield. Responses indicate that residents are most comfortable with additional commercial development along Routes 12A and 120, and within or adjacent to existing village centers.
- Respondents continue to feel that Plainfield is a desirable place to live because of the following: uncrowded and quiet conditions (88.2%); scenic quality (74.1%); friendly people (60.6%); outdoor recreation (38.2%); and good schools (37.1%).
- In 1998 the Plainfield Zoning Ordinance was modified to restrict commercial development to properties within 500 feet of a state highway. In addition, to encourage re-use of existing buildings and to promote the consolidation of essential services within the VR zone, an additional use, 'Approved Combination of Related Uses' was introduced. Also at this time another use was also introduced 'Approved Business Project' to allow' for grouping of businesses within the VR zone.
Q. 28.In an effort to increase the number of local jobs, the development of 'light industry' should be encouraged in the town (e.g. contractor's office and storage, equipment sales, laboratories for research, assembly of computers or electronic equipment)
Agree 52% Disagree 31%
Q. 29 Zoning regulations should be adjusted to protect the residential and historic nature of the village centers and discourage further commercial development in those centers.
Agree 47% Disagree 38%
Q. 31 Plainfield should be kept residential. New businesses, other than home based or cottage businesses should be discouraged.
Agree 31% Disagree 56%
Q. 32 In order to insure that Plainfield remains a residentially based community, the Town should continue to place strict restrictions on lighting, noise and hours of operation of any new business proposed for a residential neighborhood.
Agree 72% Disagree 20%
Q. 33 Zoning regulations should be amended to create a new zone, Village Center (VC) designed to protect the residential character of villages by further restricting the size and type of businesses allowed.
Agree 45% Disagree 40%
Q. 34 Current VR zone regulations are least restrictive on business development in village centers in the belief that Town services can best be provided there and that concentrating development in the village centers will best preserve the rural nature of the overall community, Regulations for the VR zone should continue to permit business development in village centers.
Agree 68% Disagree 13%
Income levels in Plainfield are higher compared to Sullivan County, Grafton County and the State. As Chart IV-1 shows, between 1979 and 2010 median family income in Plainfield rose faster than those for either Sullivan or Grafton Counties, as well as the State as a whole. The 2010 median family income of $85,966 now exceeds that of the compared groups.
Chart IV-2, shown below, illustrates the distribution of household income within Plainfield in 1979 through 2010. The number of housing units receiving different levels of income is shown. In addition to the shift to the right that one would expect due to inflation, there is a substantial re-centering of the distribution in the middle income range indicating that a higher percentage of households had income levels in the middle of the range in 2010 than in 1999. The total number of households with income of less than $25,000 decreased to 77 from 130 in 1999. Households with incomes in excess of $150,000 increased dramatically from 6 to 126 over the 1989-2010 period.
Mean Household Income as shown on Table IV-1, at $102,222 has grown dramatically in the last decennial and exceeds that of Sullivan County, Grafton County as well as that of the State.
ACS 2006-2010 Estimates
|less than $10k||10|
|$10k - $15K||10|
|$15k - $20k||31|
|$20k - $30k||71|
|$30k - $50K||135|
|$50k - $75k||137|
|$75k - $100k||135|
|$100k - $150K||260|
|$150k - $200k||30|
|Income Category||Amount||# Households|
|Median Household Earned Income||$85,966||835|
|Mean Household Income||$102,222||915|
|Mean Social Security Income||$12,817||245|
|Mean Retirement Income||$15,118||159|
|Mean Supplementary SS Income||$1,386||7|
|Families with food stamps past 12 months||8|
Following the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Statistical Policy Directive 14, the U.S. Census Bureau uses a set of money income thresholds that vary by family size and composition to determine who is poor. If a family's total income is less than that family's threshold, then that family, and every individual in it, is considered poor. The poverty thresholds do not vary geographically, but they are updated annually for inflation using the Consumer Price Index (CPIU). The official poverty definition counts money income before taxes and does not include capital gains and non-cash benefits (such as public housing, Medicaid, and food stamps). Poverty is not defined for people in military barracks, institutional group quarters, or for unrelated individuals under age 15 (such as foster children). They are excluded from the poverty universe--that is, they are considered neither as "poor" nor as "nonpoor." Local level data are published only every ten years.
by Size of family and number of related children Under 18 Years
|Size of family unit||Weighted average thresholds in dollars|
|One person (unrelated individual)||11,139|
|Under 65 years||11,344|
|65 years and over||10,458|
|Householder under 65 years||14,676|
|Householder 65 years and over||13,194|
|Nine persons or more||45,220|
Source: U. S. Bureau of the Census
Chart IV-4 shows a comparison of the percentages of the population below the poverty line for Plainfield, Sullivan and Grafton Counties, and the State, for 1979, 1989 and 1999 and estimates from the American Community 2006-2010 Surveys. While all the groups showed a reduction in poverty over the late 1990's, the 2010 estimates show increases driven by better tracking of healthcare costs. Plainfield continues to have a significantly smaller percentage of families living below the poverty line than either the county, or the State. Plainfield needs to address financial relief for these families.
As Table IV-3 illustrates poverty is spread across age groups. The number and percentage of persons over 65 living below the poverty line has decreased during the period 1989 to 2010, and is below that of the two counties and the State as a whole.
Poverty Distribution in Plainfield
|Age Group||less than 1x PL||1x to 2x or less than PL||Total Population|
Data from ACS 2006-2010 Surveys
Tables IV-4 and IV-5 provides a view of Plainfield residents' employment status and grouping by occupational categories. Plainfield has a high percentage of people (74.1%) with managerial/professional (white collar) jobs. Farmers have been included with Production workers in ACS counts.
|Population 16 and over||1993||100|
|In labor force||1551||77.8|
|Not in labor force||442||22.2|
|1999||2010 - ACS|
|Employed persons 16 and over||1306||100%||1532||100%|
|TRAVEL TIME TO WORK||%|
|Less than 10 minutes||8.40|
|10 to 14 minutes||4.90|
|15 to 19 minutes||21.10|
|20 to 24 minutes||29.20|
|25 to 29 minutes||11.10|
|30 to 34 minutes||16.10|
|35 to 44 minutes||3.30|
|45 to 59 minutes||3.30|
|60 or more minutes||2.50|
|Mean travel time to work (minutes)||22.8|
|MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION||%|
|Worked at Home||7.6|
New local economic development can contribute to a community's local property tax base. In some cases, it may relieve the property tax burden placed on individual homeowners. It would be naive, however, to assume that extensive new commercial or industrial development would reduce the local property tax burden. The influx of new businesses brings concurrent new residential development that places additional pressure on community facilities and services such as schools and highway, police and fire departments. It can also drive up the price of housing, which is counterproductive to the Town's goal of encouraging affordable housing. However, Plainfield is not immune to development in adjacent towns and the overall housing shortage in the area.
The per capita wealth, the amount of taxable property value, or tax base, per resident, has grown significantly in the pas ten years as shown in the chart below. Part of the change is due in part to property revaluation. About one third of the growth is attributable to inflation, the remaining growth is attributable to real growth in the tax base; i.e., new growth and additions.
The Town of Plainfield has a relatively high property tax rate driven largely by school costs which account for some 70% of the overall tax rate. In 2010, Plainfield ranked 217 out of 261 in tax rate comparisons within NH communities while Lebanon ranked 221 while Hanover with the larger tax base ranked 85. The tax rate is of course directly impacted by the size of the tax base and the spending rates. The 2010 full value tax rate was $23.75. For current information, see the NH Full-Value Tax Rate publication.
|POPULATION||WEALTH per PERSON|
|WEALTH per PERSON|
*Inflation accounted for some 27-33% of this increase.
New local economic development does, of course, contribute to a community's local property tax base. It can, in a few cases, relieve the property tax burden placed on individual homeowners. It would be naive, however, to assume that extensive new commercial or industrial development would reduce the local property tax burden. The influx of new businesses brings concurrent new residential development, which, in turn, places additional pressure on community facilities and services such as schools and highway, police and fire departments. It can also drive up the price of housing, which is counterproductive to the Town's goal of encouraging affordable housing. Not withstanding this, Plainfield is not immune to development in adjacent towns and the overall housing shortage in the area. Large lot requirements, high land prices and the gradual saturation of the towns of Hanover & Etna is driving highend development in Plainfield.
It is, therefore, important to critically examine both the costs and benefits of new commercial or industrial development and to project the potential secondary impacts of new development before encouraging business growth in Plainfield.
The key to a strong municipal tax base in New Hampshire is well planned, balanced and well timed growth. A sound capital budgeting program can also help maintain the fiscal health of a community, since it projects major capital outlays and provides for stable, longterm financing arrangements. Plainfield has a good history of fiscal discipline.
The Town of Plainfield has limited potential for both commercial and light industrial development, and is not likely to become a major economic center. Limitations for economic development include low population density, distance to markets, lack of rail service, lack of public water and/or sewer, topography and other natural limitations, and small labor supply. In addition, the electric grid in most of Plainfield lacks three-phase power, i.e. it is inadequate for industrial and many commercial applications.
Plainfield does, however, have the potential for certain types of commercial and light industrial development. The first type is based on local population growth, which increases the demand for locallyoriented service; trade and construction firms, convenience stores, drug stores, hairdressers, carpenters, etc.
The second type of economic potential for Plainfield is business which caters to the seasonal visitors, or can draw customers from a large area, extending beyond the typical market; Home Hill Inn and Singing Hills Christian Camp are examples of this type of business. To attract these customers to Plainfield, there must be something special about the business, based on either quality or uniqueness. Businesses in this category include quality restaurants and specialty shops and services.
The third type of economic potential is the home-based business, which already is an important form of local economic activity. As communication systems and information technology improve, businesses can locate in more rural, remote areas and work can take place within the home.
The final form of potential economic growth is light industrial development and wholesale businesses. Unlike years ago, when many industries were large, noisy and polluting, there are many small, clean, light industries today, which could become assets to the Town. Examples of clean, light industry include small electronics, computer, stitching, research and testing, and machine shop companies. With proper land use controls, such as zoning, subdivision regulations and site plan review, the Town can encourage this type of economic development and still protect the public interest.
It is important to realize that Plainfield' s economy is closely related to its natural resources, its rural small-town character and closely tied to the development of the Upper Valley.
Plan for growth and renewal, while maintaining the rural agricultural character of Plainfield and protecting its natural resources and open spaces.
- The community is wealthy enough to provide more direct assistance to those living in poverty. In November of 2012, a community group was formed to explore how best to do this.
- Continue to advocate with utilities for high speed internet capability throughout the town. This is critical for existing home-based businesses and for further economic development.