The state of Virginia has lured visitors with: “Virginia is for lovers.”
The state of New York had: “I love New York.”
Now, New Hampshire has: “Live free and …”
You’re supposed to fill in the blank.
New Hampshire does indeed have an identity problem, from both within and without its borders.
The new slogan was adopted earlier this month by the Division of Travel and Tourism as a way get visitors to latch on to the state’s independent spirit.
(The slogan, by the way, hasn’t taken hold yet on the state’s official VisitNH web site.)
Within its borders, the state is trying to overcome an image of “cold and old”, an image that is driving too many of its college and university graduates across the border to other states to begin their careers.
It is why the state embarked on “Stay Work Play” — statewide effort established in 2009 to, according to its mission statement, “expose more young people to the advantages of remaining in or returning to New Hampshire.”
The “cold and old” image of the Granite State is a tough one to overcome, this past winter’s warmth notwithstanding.
Indeed the state is getting old. According to the latest census data, New Hampshire is the fourth oldest state in the nation. The average age here is 41.1 years, up from 39.3 years in the 2000 census.
Three of the four oldest states in the country are located in the region. Maine is the oldest at 42.7 years, Maine is second at 41.5.
The average age of the national population as a whole is 36.8.
So how does the state turn all that into an advantage when catering to visitors.
The hope is that “Live free and …” let’s each visitor decide what the state means to him or her.
For skiers, it might be “Live free and ski”. For beachgoers, it might be “Live free sunbathe” or “Live free and surf”.
Certainly there is enough to do, enough to fill in the blanks for people willing to look for the opportunities.
There are people who believe the burnishing of the state’s image to outsiders can begin at its borders and on its highways, starting with its rest areas.
Cuts to the state budget limit the times that certain rest areas are open; some aren’t open anymore and visitors are greeted by a locked door and a line of Porta-Potties.
State parks are coping as best they can with cuts. They have to be self-sustaining, relying on the money they earn from entrance fees to carry out maintenance and improvements, a tough task indeed. The parks, as a result, suffer.
If we expect our visitors to fill in the blanks and think well of us, the state in turn needs to think well of its visitors.
Paul Briand is an editor with the Live Free or Die Alliance, a non-profit, non-partisan organization devoted to the analysis and discussion of New Hampshire policies and politics.