Dems taking care of business
It was a cause for celebration in Colebrook in June when North American Equipment Upfitters opened a new plant there, expanding its Hooksett-based business by taking advantage of the new Coos County tax credit. It’s good news for the rest of the state as well - showing that the pro-business agenda of the last two years has had a real and positive impact on this state’s economy. Democrats over the past two years have worked hard to support businesses and to encourage growth, particularly in industries with good paying jobs. Even in this national economic downturn, we’re seeing our investment pay off. Last year, the Legislature re-established a program for job training grants to help businesses keep their workers current in the latest skills and equipment. Since December, more than 30 companies across New Hampshire have received nearly $1 million in matching grants, which they combined with $1.3 million of their own money. As a result, 1,700 New Hampshire workers have received specialized training to benefit their employers. Democrats also passed a new research and development tax credit to encourage businesses to invest in new products and processes. While it is too early to tell who has qualified for those tax credits, we know several high-tech companies are taking advantage of the program. These are among the reasons New Hampshire recently ranked ninth in the nation of states best able to achieve high quality economic growth due to its technology and science assets (2008 Milken Institute report). Four years ago, New Hampshire ranked only 12th. This year, Democrats tackled the issue of rising health-care costs for small businesses. New Hampshire HealthFirst will lead to the development of a standard wellness plan for small businesses with up to 50 employees. The target premium price would be 10 percent of the prior year’s median wage, currently about $262 per month. Similar legislation in Rhode Island produced a savings of more than 15 percent for small businesses there. Also to be launched this year is a specialized business court within the state’s Superior Court system, allowing commercial disputes to be heard before judges who can specialize in that area of law. The goal is to resolve conflicts more quickly and cost-effectively for businesses. In addition, this year saw passage of several laws to address the need for more workforce housing - a leading concern of the Business and Industry Association. Meanwhile work progresses on a statewide plan to expand access to high-speed Internet - a critical issue particularly for businesses in our rural areas. We will soon have an effective strategy for expanding access to broadband services and to identify and pursue grants or other potential resources, public and private, to move the plan forward. Taken together, these initiatives reflect Democratic leaders’ commitment to New Hampshire’s business community. Given the current national downturn, it’s more important than ever to invest wisely in legislation that helps business and industry. In the end, their success is our success.