What the governor learns by ‘walking around’

In 1980, Dave Packard, CEO of Hewlett-Packard, made famous the expression Management By Walking Around – MBWA, for short. The simple act of walking around the plant and talking casually with engineers and manufacturing floor operators gave Dave Packard a pulse on what was really happening at HP.

It seems as though Governor Lynch is taking a similar approach to keeping his finger on the pulse on New Hampshire’s manufacturing sector. In recent weeks, the governor has paid visits to Pelham Plastics in Pelham, Hypertherm in Hanover, and more recently, Rapid Sheet Metal, in Nashua.

Rapid Sheet Metal, a fast-growing sheet metal prototype shop, is the type of company any governor would point to as a shining example of how New Hampshire supports manufacturing segment. Rapid Sheet Metal has tripled its workforce over the past four years, growth that has been fueled in part by the governor’s 2005 initiative with Citizen’s Bank to create a $100 million job creation loan fund.

Formerly a manufacturing CEO himself, Governor Lynch was clearly comfortable as he toured the manufacturing and engineering areas of the Rapid Sheet Metal facility. Stopping at various sheet metal cutting, bending and finishing stations, the governor spent as much time with machine operators and shop floor staff as he did with company executives. There was plenty of give-and-take, and the governor was pleased by the feedback he got from the employees especially.

“One of the reasons people like New Hampshire,” said the governor, “is that the government is not overbearing. In general, you have more access to government and it is easy to manage infrastructure relative to other states. You are able to get things done faster in New Hampshire.”

The governor talked about his approach to supporting manufacturing in New Hampshire through initiatives like the Job Training Fund to help employers train and keep young workers in the state. Like other New England states, New Hampshire faces challenges in attracting and keeping young workers, particularly in the manufacturing sector.

Other important economic initiatives New Hampshire is pushing forward on are designed to keep the cost of operating businesses down. These include efforts to stabilize and contain energy costs and health-care initiatives like the Health First Initiative. Governor Lynch pointed to the recent entry of Acadia Insurance as another positive indicator of New Hampshire’s business-friendly climate.

Jay Jacobs, CEO of Rapid Sheet Metal, agreed that New Hampshire is a great place to do business, and his company’s success is certainly a positive testament to that. He did, however, have some questions and concerns for the governor to take back to Concord.

“We love doing business in New Hampshire, and we have taken full advantage of whatever programs the state has made available to us,” said Jacobs. “We do have some concerns about some mandated health-care procedures the Legislature is considering, though. We are always looking for sheet metal workers to support our continued rapid growth. The cost of health care directly impacts our ability to hire additional workers and stay competitive.”

According to the governor’s press secretary, Colin Manning, this is exactly the kind of feedback that Governor Lynch loves hearing firsthand, and he is looking forward to more of the same as he “walks around” the state in the coming months to spread the word about the Job Training Fund and New Hampshire’s other manufacturing-friendly initiatives.

Dave Packard would have been very proud.

Matt Van Wagner is president of Find Me Faster, a paid search marketing agency in Nashua.

Categories: Opinion