By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — Southern New Hampshire is leading the way in many innovative ideas, projects and economic growth potential.
That's the word coming from not only the governor's office, but also from Derry and Londonderry town leaders.
Gov. Maggie Hassan was the guest of honor at last week's "State of the Region" event, hosted by the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce at Promises to Keep.
Joining Hassan at the podium were Derry Town Administrator John Anderson and acting Londonderry Town Manager and police Chief William Hart, both giving insight on how their towns are faring with jobs, growth, taxes and future plans.
The event was presented through the Chamber's Government Connections group. It was designed to bring information to the area about what's happening in Concord and how that affects Derry and Londonderry as they work to bring growth, business and quality of life to their citizens.
For Hassan, it was also an opportunity to spread good news about the state and its successes.
"We stand at the threshold of a really bright future," the governor said. "We can't just sit back and wait for innovation and the economy to develop, we must lead the way."
Leading the way is what the state is already doing, Hassan noted, when it comes to quality of life, bringing in cutting-edge business, and growth in both jobs and technology.
She said her plans include making college more affordable and offering the education necessary to keep students in New Hampshire after graduation.
"We can't keep losing our young people or fail to develop our work force," Hassan said.
The state's infrastructure is crumbling, she said, with deteriorating bridges on the state's "red" list in dire need of repair.
"A solid infrastructure will attract new business and create jobs but we barely have enough money to do the bare minimum," she said.
Relief could come if the state agrees to open a regulated casino, she said, a plan that could boost the state's revenue into the millions of dollars.
Tight budget constraints have hurt local communities as both Anderson and Hart spoke about their towns and how difficult it is to make the important financial decisions.
Anderson said Derry is in "pretty good shape."
Right now, the town is embroiled in its budget review process, hearing details from each department about what they want to spend in fiscal year 2014.
Some hard decisions have to be made when it comes to spending, Anderson said. The tax rate must stay within a tax cap limit set in the town's charter.
"We're doing our best to live within that tax cap," he said.
Hart said Londonderry also shows a lot of promise in areas of economic growth, jobs, and housing opportunities with projects like Woodmont Commons and Pettingill Road in the pipeline.
"These are hopes for the future, but with each passing day, become projects closer to reality," Hart said. "We are setting on the top of the wave that is ready to break with great plans and opportunities for the region."
The town has put a new planning department procedure into place to help save money by outsourcing some economic development work.
"That will reduce the costs," Hart said.
Everyone agreed some projects would do the region a lot of good, including completing the Interstate 93 expansion and building Exit 4A. Town leaders also stressed the importance of working together.