Like many of NH’s more than 200 small towns, Bristol is looking for a formula for economic success that broadens the tax base but preserves its rural charm. After a decade of infrastructure improvements, with more on the way, the town has launched a special website, bristolnhbusiness.com, to showcase its opportunities and make owning or starting a business in town easier.
Bristol Town Administrator Nicholas Coates says the new website is the natural progression of years of improvements and provides a way to tell the town’s story. Coates has been at the helm in Bristol for more than five years but says the effort to make the town an attractive, rural tech hub has been underway for about a decade with a heavy focus on infrastructure,
“We built a town green, rehabbed the sidewalks and roads, which led to the mills being redeveloped. We went from almost all empty storefronts 10 years ago to full capacity,” says Coates. “We have three micro-breweries. When people ask, ‘What’s our economic development strategy? I say, ‘It’s beer and broadband,’” says Coates. “That’s what brings jobs, just look at Littleton.”
Coates, who chairs the Grafton County Broadband Committee, says broadband is key as businesses need to be connected just to be able to swipe credit cards and, more recently, bandwidth is needed to support remote learning and remote work.
Bristol sits northwest of Concord and has long been a destination for visitors who flock to Newfound Lake. As the pandemic expands the options for remote work and even the choice of where to locate a company headquarters, Coates is intent on converting some of those tourists to residents.
“That is why we made the big push for broadband. You don’t have to leave at the end of the summer,” he says. “We have been a two-season community, summer and one week in the fall, and we want to become year-round so our businesses can survive and thrive.”
The website also offers a primer on local land use regulations, connecting with town staff and local business organizations, banking and lending resources, and available commercial real estate.
“We heard from business owners that things like permitting, lending and finding a location can be an intimidating process, so why not extend that supportive environment to those who want to become part of our business community and make those steps a little easier?” asks Coates.