Let’s import jobs into N.H.

Despite all of our problems, America remains the most attractive market in the world for almost every product imaginable. In large part, this is why most American businesses don’t immediately think of exporting their products abroad – a major failing of ours.

But foreign companies are well aware of the opportunities that exist in the U.S. markets. Anyone doubting this should immediately look at the auto industry. The U.S. still produces some of the best cars in the world. But we do so primarily in the South, in such states as South Carolina, Kentucky, and Alabama and they bear the brand logos of BMW, Toyota, Honda, Infinity, etc.

It’s not just cars. Honda Aviation, for example, recently opened a new plant in North Carolina. Nor is it just manufacturing. The list of businesses is almost limitless and includes high-tech companies, software companies, call centers, etc.

So here is the question: When Kia Motors or Hyundai were recently looking to open new assembly plants, why is it that no one tried to persuade them to build a plant in New Hampshire?

With New Hampshire’s great lifestyle, low taxes, our high-tech base and our business environment, our state should be an excellent destination for all kinds of business operations. More often than not, foreign businesses are looking to establish operations where the enabling business environment is considerably better than in their home countries. This usually means the USA. It should also mean New Hampshire.

Clearly, we need to do a better job of reaching out and make New Hampshire’s business climate well known. By all reports, we are not appropriately doing so today. Judging by the successes of other states, New Hampshire does little to encourage or recruit companies to move here.

Why is it, for example, that foreign companies are moving to Massachusetts’ Route 128 and 495 when New Hampshire’s business climate is (despite recent moves in the Legislature) still far more attractive?

I asked a personal friend of mine, the president of Infosys (India’s largest and most successful software company), why he didn’t consider New Hampshire when they were expanding their U.S. operations. His response to me was simple. “I do not ever recall New Hampshire ever making a pitch for our business.”

Despite a strong desire of several other Indian companies, to take just one example, there has been very little contact with New Hampshire’s state government. Consider this recent quote from NHBR: “The Office of International Commerce, which has organized a number of trade missions in various parts of the world, considered a mission to India a couple years ago, but ultimately decided against it. We actually looked at that to see how many would want to go. We didn’t get huge response.” Or this: “With states such as Texas, Georgia, Alabama, etc. aggressively promoting themselves and getting successful results why would anyone bother looking at New Hampshire?”

We obviously need to be much more proactive, aggressive and visible.

Just as bad, there has there been no visible effort to encourage exports abroad. New Hampshire exports are growing, proving that it can be done, but we are certainly not maximizing our potential. We should also be encouraging American companies to consider establishing new facilities in our state.

Yes, the state has an office that is charged with doing this. These responsibilities are housed within the Department of Resources and Economic Development (oddly named DRED) and more specifically the two people in the Division of Economic Development (oddly named DED). DED is obviously very understaffed and they have few incentives to be aggressive or responsive. Such an office needs to be much more proactive and results-oriented. One look at their Web site relative to that of say Georgia confirms how far behind we are.

Clearly, we need to do much more.

Bob Bestani of Newmarket, former director of general finance at the Asian Development Bank, is a candidate for the Republican nomination in the 1st Congressional District.

Categories: Opinion