Economic development: a wise investment
A recent New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies report noted that the smart manufacturing and high technology sector is the single largest in New Hampshire's economy, accounting for 19 percent. In 2009 alone, the so-called SMHT sector encompassed 3,700 New Hampshire companies employing almost 80,000 people and paying out $6.4 billion in wages and benefits. Exports from the state's manufacturers directly support more than 77,000 jobs, compared to about 52,000 jobs in travel and tourism. Behind these statistics is an economic development system that nurtures this vital sector and a state team that is consistently at the forefront of ensuring the development of well-paying jobs and world-class companies.Composed of the New Hampshire Business Resource Center and the International Trade Resource Center, the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development is "Business 411," providing local companies with the assistance and resources they need in order to grow, and "Business 911," lending a helping hand when firms are facing difficult times.In the past year alone, the state's economic development team has provided assistance ranging from financing and permitting to energy audits and broadband counsel to over 3,700 companies, helped to secure over $255 million in federal contracts for local firms and worked with over 2,000 businesses to export their products and services to over 165 countries.This is why, as members of the New Hampshire Economic Development Advisory Council and the International Trade Advisory Committee, two boards tasked with promoting business development in the state, we strongly support the full restoration of the Division of Economic Development's budget, which was slashed by 33 percent in the House budget.If the proposed cuts are kept intact by the Senate, New Hampshire businesses will be the ones that ultimately bear the cost. At a time when exports by New Hampshire firms represented an all-time high of $4.4 billion, the international trade team will be reduced to one person and export training seminars that served 600 local companies in 2010 will be eliminated. At a time when economic development leadership and attracting and retaining businesses in the state is critical to revenue generation, the Division of Economic Development will be losing the economic development director position and eliminating funds aimed at supporting new business recruitment and retention. In 2010, these critical functions assisted 24 companies, resulting in the creation of over 755 new jobs and over $14 million in new payroll.As private businesspeople, we understand the difficult decisions being faced by our state lawmakers. However, we also understand the value of making a sound investment. While so much discussion at the State House has centered on cuts, very little has been said about revenue generation - and make no mistake, the Division of Economic Development is creating the types of jobs that ensure the economic vitality of our state.By making an investment in economic development, we are investing in our business community. With a strong business community, we are taking a great step towards maintaining our state's position as one of the most desirable places to do business in the United States.Dr. Deborah Osgood is a member of the New Hampshire Economic Development Advisory Council and James Hood is a member of the International Trade Advisory Committee.