By BOB MARTIN | Aug 06, 2014
Plymouth — Gov. Maggie Hassan met with representatives of businesses from Plymouth and northern New Hampshire communities at the Enterprise Center at Plymouth State University, where she hosted a Live Free and Start Business Roundtable on Tuesday afternoon.
The meeting involved a conversation between the governor, PSU staff, small-business owners and local entrepreneurs as well as members of the Live Free and Start advisory council. Live Free and Start is an initiative that was launched in June by the governor’s office, Business Finance Authority, and the Department of Resources and Economic Development. It is aimed at creating jobs in New Hampshire by making it easier for high-tech companies to start up.
This was the second roundtable discussion of its kind, but the first in Plymouth. The advisory council works to address concerns that are raised by the state’s high-tech businesses, which includes the need to modernize business regulations and expand technology used throughout the state.
PSU President Sara Jayne Steen stressed the importance of the meeting.
“In [Hassan’s] state of the state message, she talked about the importance of innovation, about the economy, small business creating jobs and what it meant, and last month created the Live Free and Start advisory concept,” Steen said. “It brings together a lot of partners doing what we are also doing in bringing together partners to work on behalf of small businesses to bring education, public and private, and government together.”
Steen said that it was a perfect chance for people to compare the issues that they are confronting in high-tech jobs so Hassan could get a feel of the common concerns from those in the central and northern parts of the state.
“This is really a priority for me, all of the leaders of state government, and the Business Finance Authority,” Hassan said.
Hassan said that in her first 18 months in office, she spent a lot of time with businesses and focused on building a stronger workforce. This included making sure young people could afford to go to college by investing in scholarships, as well as focusing on early STEM education to ensure they are ready when they go onto higher education. She said this is to make sure that they are developing a 21st century workforce as well as modernizing as a state.
“There’s a lot more to do, whether it is energy costs or implementation of health care reform,” Hassan said. “No matter what you think of it, there’s a lot of work to do.”
Hassan also said that they have focused on transportation infrastructure and are working on a number of measures to foster private investment in the state to encourage businesses to start up and grow.
Hassan said that New Hampshire has always been a good place for startups, but recently she feels it may have lost its edge. She said that the whole concept behind Live Free and Start is to bring together business leaders to address concerns and ensure New Hampshire is an attractive place to not only start a business, but for businesses to stay and thrive.
She acknowledged that the state needs to have modernized business regulations, as well as improved technology for businesses to interact. Business leaders tended to have similar requests and concerns as they spoke to the governor.
Kevin Low, the founder of Secure Network Services in Littleton, said that since 2011, he has seen plenty of growth. However, he said that one thing is obvious: in the North Country, they need more broadband Internet. This was a common theme throughout the meeting, which was acknowledged by Hassan.
Rich Dion, who is a retired intelligence officer, is building a team of people to bring some of the access to people in the FBI, Secret Service, or other agencies who can help law enforcement and first responders by giving access to these people. He said that he came to Plymouth from Piermont because of Internet access and cellphone service.
“The state needs very aggressive connectivity that people can depend on, as well as cell service,” Dion said. “I think those are solvable problems from the technological point of view.”
Obstacles that were brought forth in the discussion included finding quality staff coming out of college who are ready for the technological world and people trained to do the work needed. Dion said it would be helpful to have an aggressive training program. He added that the state should pay attention to sharing information with businesses starting up to help them through their process.
Dan Boynton of iNET Communications said that for his industry, the biggest thing he sees is that there is no course for telecommunications in the higher education system. He said that a good place for it would be in the IT department to deal with newer technologies.
Other areas of concern were getting loans, receiving gap funding, and health care.
Hassan was joined by Jeff Rose, who serves as the commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development, and Liz Gray, who is leading the initiative. During the meeting they were all jotting down notes and assured business leaders that they would be taking their comments into account, and encouraged them to stay in touch.
“I think we have begun to make great progress,” Hassan said.