Spurring the N.H. economy forward

I have been traveling for business as the commercial real estate sector here in New Hampshire and New England remains underwhelming.I was in Raleigh, N.C., last week and came away impressed with the Carolinas’ prospects to compete both nationally and globally.Let’s start with their 6.8 cents per kilowatt-hour electricity (vs. the 15 cent to 16 cent here). Then add in 99 (yes, that is right, 99) community technical colleges. How about good, inexpensive housing? I toured and inspected top to bottom a 2,690-square-foot, brand new Silver Award home in Wake Forest, near Raleigh. It was a beautiful and impressive home, and listed for $350,000.Charlotte has just announced that Bank of America is bringing back 246 jobs.Perhaps more importantly, the entrepreneurial spirit was high. The lenders were young and ambitious.I was there to evaluate a 350 lot-approved single-family subdivision with water and sewer, offered at $7,500 per lot. A detailed site development bid would add $15,000 per lot. All this was next to a $40 million high school under construction. These states are drawing investment capital.So what is New Hampshire to do?We need to create jobs, overwhelmingly in small firms. We need to identify capital to help launch these endeavors and we need to provide good, affordable education and technical training.There are many, and I suppose I am among them, that feel that New Hampshire has been resting on its laurels for too long. The “New Hampshire advantage” is faded and may be a myth. We have a popular governor, who was just re-elected for a fourth term.We have definite majorities in both houses of the Legislature. Except for the humongous budget deficit, all the folks in Concord should be eager to roll up their sleeves and find new ways of doing things.For those who are serious about it, you may want to start by reading Joshua Cooper Ramo’s new book, “The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us and What We Can Do About It.” Ramo, a former reporter for Time, has put together a concise and compelling case that now is the time to change direction on foreign policy, global trade, environmental policy and how we wish to manage our financial system to support a viable economy.While there has been much hoopla about the Tea Party and the turn against the Democrats, I would suggest that we all, individually, need to determine what we want government to provide for us and what we are willing to pay for it.We are fundamentally well askew of the so-called American Capitalist ideal. Cutting through all the political rhetoric, our open-market, free economy has traditionally funded government at about 20 percent to 22 percent of GDP on a sustained basis. If you pay another 15 percent to 20 percent for health care, 15 percent for retirement, and so on, there is only so much left. At some point, more taxes become counterproductive.Whether you philosophically like them or not, the Reagan and Clinton tax cuts did spur the economy at a positive time in the economic cycle. But will more tax cuts work with our anemic global economy?The key to economic resurgence is not in Washington, it is on Main Street. When you and I, and others like us, decide it is time to invest and take entrepreneurial risks, then we will create jobs, pump up the economy, and pay more taxes.New England has historically been a fountain of entrepreneurism – we need to find that fountain again and turn it on.Bill Norton, president of Norton Asset Management, is a Counselor of Real Estate (CRE) and a Facilities Management Administrator (FMA) with the Building Owners and Managers Association. He can be reached atwbn@nortonnewengland.com.