My Turn: The pressing needs of small businesses

For the Monitor
Saturday, July 29, 2017

The New Hampshire Legislature has focused on creating a competitive, business-friendly environment in the state for the last few years. It is important that our state’s businesses are successful in order to continue creating good-paying jobs for New Hampshire workers. We know that initiatives like cutting taxes and reducing overly burdensome regulations has resulted in a great success story so far, and will continue to help employers and grow our economy.

But recently, I had the opportunity to tour Nashua businesses with Gov. Chris Sununu to dive deeper into understanding the difficulties that New Hampshire small businesses face day to day, and what we can do to effectively bolster their future success.

Two common themes stood out at the end of the day. One, energy costs in New Hampshire are too high. Two, businesses need additional, well-educated, skilled workers to fill vacant positions.

While I believe that the New Hampshire Legislature has done a lot of great things to continue to grow business in the Granite State, we need to address these concerns and help our small businesses obtain the resources they need to grow.

As the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I have had the opportunity to work on many pressing, energy-related issues. From natural gas to renewable energy, New Hampshire must take an all-of-the-above approach to meeting our growing energy needs. Rather than picking winners and losers through government subsidies, we should look to cut the red tape that is blocking new, smart energy solutions from entering our market. The free market must be allowed to make headway creating clean, innovative and cost-effective energy resources for the state.

Pursuing an increase in New Hampshire’s energy portfolio will increase the demand for a skilled workforce which is already at an all time high. The past administration sought to solve problems by throwing money at them, which has been historically unsuccessful. We understand that workforce development does not mean every person must pursue a college degree, but instead look to our state’s cutting-edge career and technical education programs. And in many cases, nothing can replace the value of on-the-job training through successful apprenticeships in high-demand vocations.

As Granite Staters, we should be proud that we have some of the most successful public and private institutions of higher learning in the nation. However, we must develop opportunities for those who choose to further their education in a trade or technical school. Electrician, plumber, mechanic and machinist are trades that this country was built on, and there is still high demand for these workers.

In addition to having a trained workforce, we must also prioritize policies that encourage young families to move here. The Legislature took an important step this session to improve and expand early childhood education by supporting full-day kindergarten. This is a critical policy that will attract young families to our state for our competitive educational system. However, we must also promote policies that make New Hampshire an affordable place to live.

It has also become increasing difficult for young families to afford homes in New Hampshire. Home prices are at an all-time high, exceeding even the pre-housing-bust prices. First-time homebuyers are far exceeding the supply of available starter homes driving the price of a home higher. Part of this is due to the strict land use policies that have been enacted at the local level. Home ownership is at the heart of the American Dream. Rather than creating policies that make it more difficult to build new homes in New Hampshire, we should be expanding this opportunity.

Since I was first elected to serve in the New Hampshire Senate, each session we have taken a pro-business approach to lessen the burden on our small businesses by reducing the Business Profits Tax and the Business Enterprise Tax for Granite State businesses. In addition, this year we repealed the Electric Consumption Tax, making critical progress in lowering our state’s skyrocketing energy costs. Now, we must step up as legislators and work to further lower energy costs and promote policies that build our much-needed workforce while attracting and encouraging young families to move and stay in New Hampshire.

I look forward to many more opportunities to work with Gov. Sununu and my Senate colleagues to build on the work we’ve done to make New Hampshire the best place in the country to work, live and own a business.

(Sen. Kevin Avard, a Nashua Republican, represents District 12, including the towns of Brookline, Greenville, Hollis, Mason, New Ipswich, Rindge, and Wards 1, 2 and 5 in Nashua.)