The good jobs imperative
For New Hampshire’s economy to grow, we need to build on our strengths and invest in our people
There is little to show for the governor’s recently completed recruiting visits to 100 businesses.
As a newly elected member of the Executive Council, I believe we can enhance the job creation landscape for New Hampshire, but we must make some clear choices. We should create jobs by building on our strengths and investing in our people. We must take advantage of our small size to innovate in terms of healthcare and energy, and we must invest further in our schools.
Offering business tax breaks, undermining unions and retreating from safeguarding our environment will not attract companies to New Hampshire or help those businesses that are already here to grow.
The process of attracting job-creating businesses is similar to the recruitment process that my firm uses to attract talented young lawyers. We decide on what parameters we can distinguish ourselves and then we network our way to quality candidates. We compete on quality of life and the early opportunity for leadership. We don’t compete on money. Our recruitment is also more successful the closer we stay to home.
Businesses that are already located in New Hampshire are our best targets for job creation. Freeing up capital through expansion of state loan programs would help these businesses grow.
Bensonwood Homes in Walpole, for example, recently took advantage of a state loan guarantee that it will use to convert a vacant warehouse in Keene into a manufacturing plant that will create 15 new jobs.
We must also distinguish our state from its competitors on quality-of-business-life factors. To do this, we need to be connected, have an educated and skilled workforce, and we need to deal with the cost of healthcare and energy.
It is shortsighted to compete based on our state’s tax structure. Businesses quickly realize that our over-reliance on the local property tax offsets reductions in state taxes.
Maintaining our nationally recognized, 21st century public school system is critical to attracting and growing businesses whose owners and workers will live in our state. Our modern educational standards and strong career-tech programs must be touted as key assets.
While supporting these assets, we must invest in others. Working parents require full-day kindergarten and affordable daycare. By offering generous incentives to qualified early childhood educators, we will attract and keep young parents who depend on quality preschools and good daycare for their infants and toddlers.
Businesses depend on connectivity. This means fiber-optic backbones across the state, coupled with grants and revolving loans to finance the last-mile connections necessary to encourage tech businesses.
Modern public transport must be available within and between our cities to attract a generation that eschews car ownership. Rail to Boston must be a part of this equation, and so must highly livable, walkable, and cultural towns and cities.
All businesses worry about healthcare costs. Imagine the advantages of a state that brings these costs under control. This must be our number one priority. We can start with our state, municipal and university healthcare systems that, together, insure over 80,000 people. If the current research is correct, about 4,500 members in these plans are responsible for 50 percent of the costs incurred. Surely, we can develop ways to assist 4,500 people to improve their health outcomes and drive down our costs.
We already have healthcare reform efforts being studied at Dartmouth and UNH. We need to spur these programs to action and apply their research on a practical scale.
For many of us, quality of life begins with the environment. Access to the outdoors, clean air and clean water are attractive to most employees and to their employers. These resources are our assets. We must carefully protect them at the state level when they are under assault federally.
If we truly want to compete for business, we should distinguish ourselves based on how hard we work to protect the environment, not on how much regulation we abandon. Remaining a leader in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and with Renewable Portfolio Standards is a must.
There is power in networking. A focus on one person visiting 100 businesses is ineffective. Existing businesses and local workers should be recruited as ambassadors to attract new businesses. The Manchester Millyard must be recognized for the business hub that it can be. We must also enlist our colleges and universities to help us identify those out-of-state businesses run by graduates of New Hampshire schools. Leaders with connections to New Hampshire are more likely to return.
This could and should be our pitch: “Create jobs in New Hampshire where the air is clean, the schools are good, healthcare costs are under control, and where you can get home from work in time to watch your child’s ballgame. With healthy and talented employees, forward-thinking private/public partnerships, and world-class connections across communities, you can take your business to the next level here with us.”
Andru Volinsky, an attorney with Bernstein Shur in Manchester, represents District 2 on the NH Executive Council.