Lower taxes aren’t what we need, but this is

Some insights on what NH can do attract more businesses

So, we got a tax cut. Thanks. And, they said it was to help keep young people in New Hampshire.

But, in the real world, a business tax cut does little to address the issues that our New Hampshire economy faces. We have witnessed economic growth cool recently, as a wave of consolidation has seen large New Hampshire banks, utilities and corporations be bought out by national organizations.

The transfer of jobs out of state has often followed this. It certainly speaks to New Hampshire being part of a larger regional economy – and with our small population, and peripheral location, it is a trend that is hard to reverse with tax cuts.

And all this comes with a loss of young people from New Hampshire: Call it a youth drain.

With fewer management jobs, especially in rural areas, many New Hampshire youth are drawn out of state to the more diverse economies in places such as Boston. And while there have been several effective efforts to stem this exodus, the issue is hard to change.

As one business owner, let me offer some insight on what we can do to attract more businesses to locate and stay in New Hampshire, and address our loss of talented youth.

Invest in education. Good universities attract good companies. You see that in Silicon Valley and Cambridge, Mass. But you also see it in the Upper Valley and Seacoast.

Investing in education is an economic investment, because new companies are often tied to where their founder got a degree, and to a future workforce of talented people.

We have to invest in K-12 education too. From community technical education, to STEM, to the arts, helping kids get a solid public education is just good economic policy. No excuses – they are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. And good schools are a big deal for both young families and businesses.

Stabilize health care costs: More than taxes, this is the cost that most employers’ fear – and until recently it kept going up and up. Costs have stabilized under the ACA, and competition has increased, but it is crucial to keep that trend going, and help provide good health care for our workforce. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce.

The workforce needs affordable housing. Costly housing does not help incubate businesses.

Invest in transportation infrastructure. This is a New England economy yet we still have a New Hampshire-focused infrastructure. Young people, tech businesses, and pretty much anybody wants access to Boston. We need light rail, otherwise we are cutting ourselves off from the regional hub and losing an advantage of proximity.

This is special state, and people who come here tend to like it and think about living here. For that reason, we need to invest in our special places, preserve out history and invest in smart planning. Places like Portsmouth offer a sense of place and history, and we need that across the state. We need to conserve our environment, with access to the wilderness for every one from hunters to hikers. And, we need to maintain clean water, clean air and healthy habitats.

Tourism is economic development. Bringing quality guests to our state gets many to think about living and doing business here. Sending the right message about New Hampshire is the same as marketing the state as a place to live and work. This one pays immediate dividends, too.

Listen to business leaders and young people. They are very clear about what they want and need: good schools, safe cities, public transportation, a clean environment. At the end of the day, it is not about what we can afford, but what happens if we don’t do the right thing for our economy. 

Jayme Simoes is president of Concord-based Louis Karno & Company.

Categories: Opinion