Portsmouth, N.H. Companies Are Bucking the Trend

(NECN: Lauren Collins, Portsmouth, N.H.) - The Atom Group has been busy in the last year.

"We're working long hours," says Dave Arel, a Senior Lead Developer.

The Portsmouth, New Hampshire based web-development firm has been so busy, it's tripled its space and doubled its workforce.

"We went from about ten employees to over 20 now," says Arel.

"I am so beyond thrilled to be at this company," gushes Ashley Schoonmaker, one of the new hires.

"A lot of people go to work and stay because they're afraid because the economy is where it is and they're happy to have a paycheck, but dread what they do every day. And I get to come to work and really enjoy what I do."

Business at The Atom Group started to pick up a year ago when clients began to loosen the purse strings. They include major corporations like Monster and ESPN, as well as local companies like Mad*Pow, a downtown Portsmouth web and software design firm that also boasts an impressive client list which has recently started to spend again.

"Budgets are definitely opening up for us now and we're getting a lot more projects," says the company's Michael Hawley.

More projects and more employees - 35 on the payroll, "which is up fairly significantly from a year ago at this time when were down to ten, twelve folks."

New Hampshire's unemployment rates are the lowest in New England - 5.5% percent in September, down two tenths from August and more than a full point since last year. The last available numbers for Portsmouth peg unemployment at 4.7%, with areas like Conway, Wolfeboro, and Lebabon, New Hampshire even lower than that.

What's the edge?

"First and foremost would be quality of life," says Doug Bates at the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce.

Hawley seconds, "we really take life work balance seriously and I think that's part of the culture here in the seacoast area"

The companies in this area have seen tough times in the last few years, but for many, says Bates, "the recession for them was all about holding on to as many people as possible."

And they've been successful in more ways than one.

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