State Dems have deep commitment to business

We’re all looking for signs of an economic recovery. Some look to the stock market, but I look to our small businesses – and that’s not just because I’m a small-business owner.

History has taught us that economic recovery starts with local entrepreneurs and smaller companies – those willing to invest in themselves and take a risk on new ideas.

Our focus is and should be on small and emerging businesses if we want to jump-start our state’s economy. So it strikes me as a stunning oversight by the Business and Industry Association that my colleagues are not given credit on the BIA’s annual scorecard for a single one of the Legislature’s business initiatives listed below. This despite the fact that many of these initiatives benefit small and large businesses alike.

Many experts predict that energy conservation and green jobs will fuel the next economic engine of our time. As a result, we’ve established a low-interest revolving loan fund using the revenue we’re receiving from the regional auction of carbon credits. Businesses will have access to funds to upgrade energy systems and improve conservation to reduce their energy costs.

Another $1.3 million is aimed directly to help our New Hampshire retailers with energy audits and retrofits. Demand for services is already encouraging New Hampshire’s entrepreneurs, tradesmen and investors in conservation and alternative energy.

Last year, lawmakers heard from many of our New Hampshire auto dealers, who were devastated by decisions at the national level discontinuing or scaling back on certain makes and models.

Working with dealers, we passed legislation to strengthen franchise protections so dealers were not stuck with an unfair share of the costs. In so doing, we preserved their ability to be flexible, re-tool their business model and survive.

Other efforts are broader and will help businesses of all types.

Our state courts are in the process of launching a specialized business court within the superior court system, allowing commercial disputes to be heard before judges who can specialize in that area of law. The goal is to resolve conflicts more quickly and cost-effectively for businesses.

Democrats have long been aware of the financial strain on many small businesses struggling to provide health insurance to their employees. After a full year of work with legislators and the insurance industry, the state has just unveiled a new health insurance product called HealthFirst for companies with less than 50 employees. Premiums will cost an average of 15 to 20 percent less than comparable plans.

And in an effort directed particularly at the rural parts of our state, we are hiring a state director of broadband planning and development, drawing on federal stimulus dollars. We need to make communication fast and easy statewide to allow for maximum growth.

This business agenda goes beyond an immediate reaction to current economic conditions. Well before the recession, Democrats passed a research and development tax credit to encourage investment in new products and processes. We reintroduced a program for job training grants to provide matching funds to businesses seeking to bring workers current in the latest skills and equipment.

We passed laws to address the need for workforce housing – a leading concern of the Business and Industry Association.

And our state’s largest businesses were not asked to contribute to the state’s revenue shortfall by temporarily foregoing a tax credit against their business profits tax in the current budget.

Businesses are certainly struggling. We’re very much aware of that. But Democrats are committed to setting the stage for a successful economic recovery. Our commitment to our local businesses is as deep as our commitment to our state. We sink or swim together. The Business and Industry Association discredits themselves if they fail to recognize what Democrats have done on their behalf and on behalf of their members.

Sen. Jacalyn Cilley, D-Barrington, is a member of the Senate Commerce, Labor and Consumer Protection Committee.

Categories: Opinion