In Brief

Bon voyage: NHPR chief announces his retirement

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Mark Handley during his 14-1/2 years as president and general manager of New Hampshire Public Radio.

He acknowledges that some people are still upset over the decision four years ago to drop the station’s classical music programming in favor of a 24-hour news and information format. But membership, corporate sponsorships and the number of listeners have continued to increase, leaving Handley to conclude that commercial-free public radio in New Hampshire must be doing something right.

“Change is very difficult in all public institutions,” said Handley, who recently announced a change of his own. The 62-year-old radio executive will retire in October of next year, when he and wife will begin a three-year sailing trip to New Zealand and back, with plenty of stops along the way. The Handleys have already sold their Concord home and are living on their 42-foot sailboat, docked in Boston Harbor.

“If you’re looking for a walk-in closet, it’s tiny,” said Handley, describing his new home. Both he and his wife have been too busy to spend much time at home anyway, he said. That will change next year when they’ll be at home on the high seas, though without their favorite radio station.

“Most of our radio listening will probably come off short-wave,” he said. “Unfortunately we won’t be able to get any FM radio stations offshore and we won’t have Internet access.”

Corporate contributions have grown to more than $1.5 million a year, he said, as the station has increased its efforts to broaden its support among New Hampshire businesses.

“We were almost sitting here wishing someone would call us,” he said, before the station decided on a more aggressive approach. “It was basically that if we hired people who would go out and meet with these people and talk to them about what we did and why it is important to the state, they’d be interested in supporting it,” said Handley. “It was not entirely altruistic. Some of it was just good business sense as well.”

Handley is relying on his own “good business sense” to get the most mileage out of his travel dollars when he begins his retirement. “It’s actually cheaper to sail than to travel overland,” he said. “We’re taking our home with us so we won’t have to stay in hotel rooms and that sort of thing.”

And life’s experiences have taught the virtues of frugality. “We’ve always gotten by without a hell of a lot,” he said. “But we put two kids through college, and I always say putting kids through college is a good way for people to prepare for poverty when they retire.”

Office help: Gilford project gives budding businesses some space

Paul Deshaies of Lifestyle Automation was working out of unfinished space at the Village West commercial condominium in Gilford when he saw an article about the Lakes Venture Resource Center at Southern New Hampshire University’s Gilford campus. He now occupies a 10-by-11-foot space that fits just fine as a temporary office, he said.

“It’s perfect. It gives me an office one exit down from where I’m located,” said Deshaies, who installs low-voltage integrated electronic systems for homes.

The center, a joint project of SNHU and the Belknap County Economic Development Council, is aimed at “bringing in people in small businesses who need office space to get started,” said Adrienne Stevens, director of the university’s Laconia Center. Deshaies’ business is one of two renting space in the Venture Resource Center since it opened in late October. Genesis 3, a consulting firm, is the other tenant.

Besides the low-rent space, the center will be offering educational programs in such areas as business management skills and financial assistance programs, said Stevens. BCEDC also has opened a Business Information Center to help businesspeople find information not available at most libraries, said council Chairman Tony Ferruolo.

Since its founding in 1992, the Belknap County Economic Development Council has helped create and retain jobs within the 11 cities and towns it serves by providing information, assistance and, in some cases, loans to small businesses, Ferruolo said.

About 105 businesses are members, he said, a number that is quietly growing. “We don’t have a high-profile membership drive,” said Ferruolo. “It’s usually through networking with the board of directors.”

Fit for a Queen City: Visitors get a close-up look at Manchester

It was “a very rigorous tour” for the 30 to 35 visitors from the New Hampshire tourism industry, but for Marcia Snively, the 26-stop, two-day get acquainted visit to the state’s largest city was a “huge success.”

“It’s important to educate people dealing with visitors to our state and to let people know that this is not just an old mill town, that we have arts and culture, a wide diversity of restaurants, attractions at the Palace Theatre and sports,” said Snively, executive director of the Manchester Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

So Snively chartered a bus and invited Chamber of Commerce officials and businesspeople from other parts of the state to spend a couple of days visiting attractions in the Queen City. Visitors from Portsmouth, Keene, Peterborough, Concord and the White Mountains region were picked up at the Mall of New Hampshire and bused to the Millyard Museum, the Currier Museum of Art, Southern New Hampshire University, the Franco-American Centre, the Palace, the Verizon Wireless Arena and 20 other stops during their two-day stay.

Snively, who travels to trade shows and conferences around the country to promote Manchester, said she got the idea for the Manchester tour while on a sales mission to Canada.

“There were people there from other parts of New Hampshire, and in talking to them I found out that some of them had never been to the Verizon or the Currier,” she said. “And I thought, ‘These are people in our own backyard. These are people out promoting New Hampshire and they don’t know a thing about Manchester.’”

Snively said she hopes to attract more visitors to the city with similar tours in the near future.

“I hope to take this itinerary and use it to attract travel writers, tour operators and conference planners to show them around the Manchester area,” she said.

Food for thought:Food supply threat seen as ‘underestimated’

The state’s agricultural commissioner wasn’t surprised when retiring U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thomson said it would be easy for bioterrorists to attack the nation’s food supply.

“Well, it’s always out there,” said Taylor. “I think it’s an underestimated threat because the food system is so vast and it’s an open system. It’s just vulnerable at every turn, from the fields where the crops are grown to the feed stock and livestock facilities, the logistics of trucking, the processing plants to the distribution. It’s a wide open and exposed system.” That doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless, however.

“There’s a lot of stuff being done that needs to be strengthened,” said Taylor, “starting with the inspection of commodities coming into the country, as we become increasingly dependent on imported food. Number two would be a better tracking system, a better paper trail on the raw materials coming into the food system in livestock and in basic commodities like corn, wheat, soybeans.”

At the state level, Taylor said, there has been increased training in services aimed at “getting people to recognize rare diseases that might show up.” And state officials from various departments gather for frequent “tabletop” strategy and emergency planning sessions.

Considering the magnitude of the potential problem, Taylor suggested the services of the State House chaplain might also be needed.

“Prayer is the first line of defense,” he said.

IRS raises FUTA tax bar

The Internal Revenue Service is increasing the minimum threshold for Federal Unemployment Tax Act deposits, a move that it says will reduce burden for more than four million small businesses.

Under the new rules, effective Jan. 1, 2005, employers are required to make a quarterly deposit for unemployment taxes if the accumulated tax exceeds $500. The current threshold is $100.

“The IRS is committed to reducing burden on taxpayers whenever we can,” said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson. “The new rules will help cut paperwork for millions of small businesses. The IRS Office of Taxpayer Burden is continually reviewing what other steps we might take that will save money and time for businesses.”

The current $100 threshold requires most employers with two or more employees to make at least one federal tax deposit per year, he said. Raising the requirement to $500 will reduce burden for employers with eight employees or less by eliminating their requirement to make up to four FUTA tax deposits yearly.

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