Tony Giunta: The second shot heard round the world

For the Monitor
Saturday, March 03, 2018

I’m sure everyone remembers the story behind “a shot heard round the world.” It happened in Concord, Mass., and was the first official engagement between British and Colonial forces. At the time, no one would have ever imagined this small skirmish would forever be remembered as the beginning of the American Revolutionary War.

In retrospect, that engagement also led to the creation of the greatest industrialized nation on Earth – the United States of America. My prediction is the recent New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee decision to kill the Northern Pass project (ironically rendered in Concord, N.H.) will be the “second shot heard round the world” and will eventually lead to the demise of whatever industry we have left in New Hampshire.

What justification do I have to make such a bold prediction? Over the past five years, I’ve sat around the table with leaders from dozens of local, national and global manufacturers with plants located here in New Hampshire. Their message has been consistently loud and clear: Electric rates in New Hampshire are too high, and if they don’t come down we must move to states with lower rates.

Their reasoning is sound. After factoring the price of electricity into their final products, they simply can’t compete with their out-of-state competitors who on average pay half the cost for their electricity. Also factor in that these New Hampshire companies receive weekly solicitations from southern economic development agencies offering them property tax forgiveness, free land and sometimes free buildings, if they simply decide to move to their state. When you look at what’s happening in “don’t build it here” New Hampshire and compare it to the sweet deals being offered in other states, you have the perfect recipe for a disastrous industrial mass exodus.

What is most disturbing about the recent SEC decision is the poisonous message it sends to industry. During those roundtable meetings I discussed earlier, New Hampshire manufacturers often stressed how they would “watch and wait” for a decision by the SEC to determine if we were serious about doing something to lower the cost of electricity. They were very clear that if Northern Pass failed, they would, at best, stop all consideration of future growth and, at worst, relocate to another part of the country. Well, with a 7-0 vote against the project, I think these industrial decision makers got their answer loud and clear.

Opponents of Northern Pass point to its destruction of our scenic beauty and vacation ambiance. And even though concessions made by Northern Pass mitigated these claims, the bottom line is simply this: Before you can enjoy scenic beauty and rural vistas you need to put food on your table and clothes on your back.

With manufacturers employing more than 75,000 people in the Granite State – and quadruple that many people employed by companies that provide support services to the manufacturing sector – what happens when that local manufacturer decides to move out of state and shutters their plant? When a major plant closes in my city, what do I tell my constituents when they ask “how do I feed my family, how do I save money so my kids can go to college, how do I get back the personal pride from earning my wages?”

Frankly, I’m at a loss for words. But should Armageddon occur, I’ll be sure to give those affected the names and contact information of the seven-member SEC that made the decision that led to those closures. Maybe they can answer my constituents’ questions better than I.

Although that seemingly insignificant first shot fired in Concord, Mass., some 240 years ago surprisingly led to a world war, the warning signs were there that predicted just such an outcome. Those same warning signs signaling the collapse of our manufacturing sector in New Hampshire are also there, and I’m afraid it all begins with the SEC’s “second shot heard round the world.”

(Tony Giunta is the mayor of Franklin.)