Watch CBSN Live

How New Hampshire "firsts" bring it big bucks

Iowa was the first state to vote on the Republican presidential candidates, but next Tuesday, New Hampshire will hold the first primary election.

And residents in the Granite State are very proud to have that distinction.

With only 1.3 million people in this state, being the first in the nation not only puts it on the map, but it's good for business, CBS News correspondent Karen Brown reports.

The primary season brings New Hampshire more than $300 million -- not its biggest money maker. The state's NASCAR events bring about $100 million more than that.

Full coverage: Election 2012

Pictures: Inside the Iowa Caucuses

But the attention this state gets from the national spotlight is priceless, and a big reason New Hampshire relishes being first in the nation.

Patricia Davis, a desk clerk at the Wentworth Hotel in Jackson, N.H., takes politics "very seriously." She said, "I think everybody in New Hampshire does, because they know they are the first and it will make a difference in the way the country goes."

New Hampshire voters like sculpting the political landscape.

Travis Giles, an ice carver and N.H. resident, said, "We're proud of setting a tone for the country about which direction that we are going to go in."

As the candidates trumpet New Hampshire, behind the scenes, the state is seizing on that free advertising to sell itself.

Chris Way, New Hampshire economic development director, said, "As far as we are concerned, in terms of business environment, we are the first in the nation."

And "First in the Nation" has become New Hampshire's brand -- and a crucial tool for Way to aggressively recruit businesses.

"We have often been touted as the most livable state in the nation," Way said of New Hampshire. "We want them to know that New Hampshire is accessible, that we are somewhat different. (And we have) a very favorable tax climate."

Bill Skelley knows the lure of New Hampshire. His medical retooling company used to be in Massachusetts.

Skelley, president of Skelley Medical, said he was sitting on a plane, complaining about his inability to expand his business in Massachusetts when he was told about the possibilities in New Hampshire -- by the state's governor.

Gov. John Lynch recalled, "He was complaining about the problems he was having there. ... I always am interested in talking to other people."

That's Lynch's job.

Lynch said he pitched the state to the business owner. "I said I wanted to talk with him about possibly relocating to New Hampshire," Lynch said.

Skelley said he'd "love to." "I hadn't thought about it," Skelley said. "But, (I said), "What could you tell me?' And he says, 'Well, I'm the governor, and if you give me your business card, we'd like to follow up."'

"When I got back to New Hampshire, I asked people from our Economic Development Office to contact him," Lynch said.

"I had 20 or 30 emails of different spaces in southern New Hampshire," Skelley said.

And the aggressive state negotiator wouldn't let it go. After Skelley narrowed down his options, the negotiator approached Skelley and offered to negotiate an even better price. Skelly said he was astonished.

Skelley Medical of New Hampshire is now growing, with clients worldwide.

When asked if he's like a recruiter-in-chief, Lynch said, "I try to be. I try to be an ambassador."

Keeping their "First in the Nation" title is so important, Brown noted, that it's a state law that New Hampshire's primary must be held a week before any others.

And New Hampshire has seen first in the nation pay off. The state's unemployment rate is a low 5.2 percent, exports are at an all-time high, and the state is seeing a more modern manufacturing sector continue to grow -- all factors that will be highlighted, Brown said, as the nation turns its attention to the first primary.

View CBS News In