NH needs to rebuild its pool of talented workers

The state’s problem is not a lack of jobs, but of qualified employees

For decades, we have been hearing the refrain, “Cut expenses, cut taxes; government is bad.” But what does data say?

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that the highest gross domestic product growth rates in 2014 were in state economies based on fracking and other fossil fuel industries. Yes, they had low business taxes, but so did Alabama, where GDP growth was among the lowest in the nation. Meanwhile, California taxed businesses more than almost any other state, yet grew its GDP faster too.

Early in my entrepreneurial career, I was fortunate to have a mentor who taught me that you cannot grow a business, or an economy, by cutting costs. It is business revenues and employee salaries that create money flow into a company or an economy.

The sources of prosperity in New Hampshire are the businesses that sell products and services outside the state or that draw tourists into the state. Exporting companies, such as NH Ball Bearings, EMD Millipore and Hitchiner, draw wealth from around the globe. Even my husband’s and my small business, MobileRobots Inc., brought millions of dollars into New Hampshire every year.

These revenues then flow to local suppliers and to employees and families throughout the Monadnock Region. Best of all, exporting companies pay wages 18 percent higher than others, according to the National Association of Manufacturers, which means that local stores, services and eateries thrive. Once money lands in the state, then programs for buying local help keep it here.

Good government uses tax policy, legislation and the bully pulpit to build a system that manufactures prosperity. How can policies manufacture prosperity? 

Gov. John Lynch used to invite business leaders annually to tell him how to help them. Every year, they pleaded for more talented, skilled employees as their primary need. Why? Because successful exporters have to pack more value into their products and services in order to compete in global markets. And that extra value comes from world-class employees.

You see, New Hampshire’s problem is not lack of jobs, it is a lack of skilled people of working age.

How do we rebuild our pool of talented, trained young people in New Hampshire? We need to reverse the policies of the Legislature that have driven young folks out of the state. This means keeping college costs down, building business-education partnerships, and adopting a competitive minimum wage — which data from adopting states shows does not harm the economy.

It means targeting a few key growth sectors for extra R&D to attract the innovators who seed industries. It means adopting policies that make affordable housing possible, while protecting the environment and communities we love. It means assuring that New Hampshire children born to unprepared parents receive the nurturing that builds brains and bodies, so they grow up ready to work instead of burdening society. It means supporting top-notch school systems, to attract young families.

But excellent schools do not have to equal costliest schools. To encourage educators to rethink 21st schooling, the state should provide innovation incentives.

How do we pay to construct this prosperity machine? We reverse the niggling 0.3 percent business tax cut in the last budget, which was even opposed by many small businesses. Instead, we can use the $14 million to 90 million in lost revenues to create the system that will nurture and attract young talent and skills to the state so that our companies can grow.

This is government that is smart, with heart. Smart, because it designs prosperity into its budget and legislation. With heart, because it assures that the bounty of prosperity flows to all, even children who do not vote. And when hearts and heads concur, we will attract all the people and jobs we want to our beautiful, exceptional state. 

Jeanne Dietsch leads the Peterborough Economic Development Authority Strategic Planning Committee and recently announced her candidacy in Senate District 9.

Categories: Opinion