There’s no way to sum up adequately, in such a short space, the impact a person like Mary Collins has had on the state of New Hampshire. At the end of May, Mary retired after more than two decades of service with the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center, working tirelessly to improve the fortunes of thousands of small businesses, as well as the overall economy of the Granite State.
On the occasion of her retirement, we asked Mary a few questions – five, to be precise – about her time with the SBDC, the business environment in New Hampshire, and whether she’ll still be involved in the inner business workings of the state she’ll continue to call home.
1. You were with the SBDC for 22 years and served as state director for 18 of them. As you look back, what are two or three things you’ll remember most fondly about your time there?
– Engagement, and the long lasting friendships that I made with colleagues, clients, stakeholders, students and staff throughout New Hampshire and the US. As SBDC state director, I covered the entire state, served on numerous boards in NH and also had the opportunity to serve on the national Association of Small Business Development Center’s board, as well as the national accreditation team. This job has provided me the opportunity to meet and engage with wonderful people throughout New Hampshire and in all states throughout the US. Each time I drove to the North Country and passed through the notch, or headed to Keene or Portsmouth, I would think how fortunate I was to have a job that allowed me to take in the beauty of New Hampshire while working!
– Legislative Activity. SBDC is a cooperative program with the US SBA, the Department of Resources and Economic Development, the University of New Hampshire and the private sector – maintaining our federal, state and local funding is a key component of this job – and I have to admit I am a political junkie and have loved this part of my job – I love going to Washington, DC and to the Hill. Yes, we have had our critical moments such as sequestration and natural and economic disasters affecting our small businesses, however during the past 18 years I’ve been fortunate to have worked closely with our entire federal delegation and its amazing staffers, as well as several New Hampshire governors and many state legislators. This can only happen in a small state like New Hampshire – my colleagues in the large states envy our access to top federal and state leadership.
– The ability to be creative! Each day I could wake up and think of some activity or process that might assist a small business client or our staff and we could actually make it happen. The job is truly entrepreneurial and only possible with a great supportive staff, which I have so appreciated.
2. A lot has changed in the world of small business over the last two decades. But what would you say has stayed the same (and still remains important) for small businesses today?
Building a sustainable business requires a team effort – there are numerous federal and state programs to assist small businesses, yet entrepreneurs are so busy with day-to-day survival that they are not always aware, or do not have the time to search out these programs. A savvy entrepreneur will utilize all resources available to them as they build a strong foundation for their business – the payoff is measurable. What has also stayed the same is the need to have access to capital!
3. Your efforts to support business in the state go far beyond the SBDC. How has your work with the New Hampshire High Tech Council and EPSCOR (to name just two) also helped the SBDC with its own mission?
My philosophy has always been that small businesses need a voice at the table. The reality is that they do not have the time to attend outside meetings, nor are they always aware of critical opportunities. During the 13 years that I served on the board of the NHHTC, I was able to match the needs of SBDC clients with opportunities I learned about through NHHTC member companies, or those with whom we collaborated, such as legislators, entrepreneurs, academia etc.
For example, a SBDC client who needed an engineering lab to further develop his product was approached by a Massachusetts university, but he wanted to stay in New Hampshire. We were able to match that client with a lab at UNH.
The same has been true with my participation on the EPSCOR board, which has representation from Dartmouth, UNH, the state, and the private sector – all directed at grant opportunities for entrepreneurs in New Hampshire. The SBDC provides assistance to all aspects of running a small business – we can be our clients’ voices at the state, federal, and local level through our engagement in specific boards and committees.
4. What’s next for you? Are you retiring completely, moving onto another venture, or just taking time to see what will happen next?
I had been thinking about retirement for the last couple years, but I always found something else that I wanted/needed to do in my career. My husband retired four years ago and had been bugging me to join him. What finally convinced me was having time available for our long-planned trips, as well as travel to see my children and grandchildren. My son and his family are in Florida; my daughter is in Las Angeles and my four siblings and their families are located throughout the US. We have lived in New Hampshire since 1972 and we’re not leaving! We are selling our home of 38 years in Mont Vernon and are moving to Wolfeboro where we purchased a retirement home; winter months will be in Florida.
I love being active in New Hampshire and am taking time to consider my next venture. Last fall, I was appointed by Gov. Hassan to serve on the New Hampshire Judicial Conduct Committee and look forward to continuing with that committee. In the meantime, my garden needs attention and summer in Wolfeboro on Lake Winnipesaukee with good friends at our yacht club seems very attractive!
5. You stayed on as an adviser to your successor, Rich Grogan, as he settled into the state director position. What would you say are his strongest qualities?
I was extremely fortunate to have excellent advice on doing a transition plan, as I can’t imagine how one walks out the door on a Friday after 18 years in this position and is completely retired. The state director’s job is one that consumes your mind day and night. The transition was carefully thought out and approved by UNH and the SBA. A search committee was established and a national search for the new state director conducted.
Rich Grogan, our Keene regional manager, was selected for the position and officially took over April 6. In the last two months, we have communicated on all issues as they surface – the job is complex with many stakeholders and funders, including federal grants, state contracts and a staff located statewide. The transition has been extremely smooth and Rich is amazing. His grasp of the global picture and the needs of small businesses is excellent. He hit the ground running and had used his time effectively by engaging our existing network and board while forging new relationships for the SBDC. He has a great sense of humor and is well-respected by staff and colleagues.
I am very fortunate to be leaving a program I care so deeply about in the hands of someone who cares about sustaining and growing the NH SBDC. Rich knows that I am just an email or phone call away, which insures continuity for our clients, staff and partners.
Every month, we hop on the airwaves at WTPL-FM here in Concord and talk about business, programs and anything relating to the state’s economy.
This month, Michael Power of the New Hampshire Job Training Fund was the guest and if you’re connected to a business in the state, this is worth a listen, as Michael talks about the fund, how companies use it and how it helps our businesses stay competitive.
Tune us in at 3 pm on the third Wednesday of every month at 107.7FM in the greater Concord area.
Division of Economic Development
We’ve been delivering insights into the economic engines of New Hampshire through our 5 Questions segment. There are other organizations in the Granite State who help get the word out about what’s going on in the business community, and this week, we’re talking with one of the professionals involved in that reporting: Mike Cote, business and city editor at the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Cote is celebrating his third anniversary with the Union Leader this month, but he’s not new to the storytelling scene. He has more than 30 years of experience as a reporter and editor at newspapers and magazines in New Hampshire, Colorado and Florida. In his current position at the Union Leader, he assigns and edits news stories for their print and online editions, in addition to writing a weekly business column.
Mike Cote ~ NH Union Leader
1. What kind of business news are you looking to publish these days?
Our franchise is local news. We are looking for stories about businesses and business people that reflect the Granite State’s economy.
That represents a wide range of industries, including high technology and startups, small business success stories, thriving family businesses, publicly traded companies, defense and aerospace contractors, residential and commercial real estate, construction and the trades, restaurants and retail, tourism, health care, manufacturing, professional services, agriculture – everything that goes on in New Hampshire.
We’re always looking for emerging trends that can help us tell a story about a segment of business in New Hampshire. How are small businesses responding to changes in health care insurance? What are technology companies and manufacturers doing to ensure they have the skilled workers they need? How will New Hampshire respond to its aging population? Who are the young professionals choosing to stay in New Hampshire and what contributions are they making to the state’s economy?
2. Can businesses still get a garden-variety press release published in the Union Leader anymore?
We publish short items generated from press releases, such as new business hires and related company announcements. But for the most part, we consider press releases as an entry point for a news story. We don’t publish press releases verbatim, though some might generate a short news item without further reporting.
3. What are a couple of things businesses can do to increase the chances their news release will be published in the Union Leader?
– Include the press release in the body of the email rather than as an attachment. That way, we see the information immediately and don’t have to determine whether it’s safe to open an attachment or waste time with something that is not compatible with our system. It’s OK to include the attachment, but press releases that arrive with no or very little information in the body of the email are less likely to get our prompt attention. We receive dozens of email inquiries every day. The inbox fills up all day long. Make it easy for us.
– Be brief, be clear, and avoid the use of superlatives. You might think your company is the “best-in-class industry leader,” but we’re not going to include that. Be familiar with what we publish so that your release demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to become familiar with what we do.
4. What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve seen business professionals make in trying to get you to publish their news for them?
Be ready. Sometimes we respond to a press release that catches our attention only to find that the sources involved in the story are unavailable for comment or are unwilling to participate. Make sure everyone on your team is aware you are seeking publicity and that it could lead to an inquiry from a reporter. For example, if you are announcing your new expanded headquarters, we will want to know why you are expanding, how many employees you have, some details about your business model, how you secured your financing.
Remember that you are not in control of the story. If your goal is to publish something exactly as you submitted it, then you should consider buying an advertisement. Working with the media does involve some risk — we will likely talk to your competitors or other outside sources about what your company does — but a news story can bring credibility that marketing alone will not accomplish.
Also, we’re not publishing news about business professionals just as a service to them, but more importantly, for our readers. What stories would you be interested in reading when you pick up the business section? Ask yourself that question before you send a press release in the hopes that it will generate something more than a brief item. Will someone unrelated to your company be interested in reading this news? Make us your best pitch.
5. How do businesses best go about submitting a release for your consideration?
You can send it to us via email to email@example.com or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are also launching online links for readers to send us business information.
If you’re going to include a photo headshot, make sure it has a large enough resolution. For printing a thumbnail headshot in the newspaper 300 dpi (dots per inch) is good. We use those photos in our Newsmakers column about company hires, promotions, awards, etc.
Compiled by ZipRecruiter, “The website tracked hiring patterns to determine which cities were increasing job listing in the tech industry at the fastest rate, and which have the highest volume of tech jobs compared against other industries.”
Manchester hops on the list, as well, for its easy access to Boston and for its lack of “city-sized costs of living.”
The second is Conexus Indiana’s 2015 Manufacturing & Logistics Report Card. In this report, New Hampshire joined manufacturing powerhouse states like Alabama, Ohio and North Carolina, earning an overall ‘B’ for its manufacturing health; it was one of five states – and the only New England state – to receive an ‘A’ in human capital.
“If I were a manufacturer in a particularly high-tech activity – the medical devices or that sort of field – that required very sophisticated workers and a small operation with a high-value product that you don’t need to move on trains, New Hampshire would be very attractive to me,” Michael Hicks, director of Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research, which conducted the research, told the New Hampshire Business Review.
Division of Economic Development
Portsmouth is home to Pease International Tradeport, a prospering community covering 3,000 acres of world-class office and industrial space. It’s home to over 250 companies employing more than 9,525 people, occupying some 4 million square feet of business space. The facilities are managed by the Pease Development Authority and for this installment of 5 Questions, we interviewed David Mullen, executive director of the PDA.
Mullen began his career at the PDA nearly 20 years ago as its director of marketing and later served as deputy director. He also did three turns as an interim executive director after the departures of previous directors George Meyer, George Bald and Dick Green. The third time was the charm for Mullen – he officially had the interim tag struck from his title and has served as executive director since March 2009.
David Mullen ~ Pease Development Authority
1. The Pease Development Authority will soon be celebrating 25 years of operation, since it closed as an Air Force Base in 1991. What are the secrets to PDA becoming the most successful military-to-civilian conversion in the country?
The 25th anniversary of the formation of the Pease Development Authority was June 1, 2015. The success of Pease is greatly due to the real estate adage “location, location, location,” and the resulting supply/demand for real estate in this location.
Portsmouth is one of the jewels of the state and the rate of job growth in Portsmouth proper (71 percent) is more than twice that of the state (31 percent). Having been a state industrial rep from 1990 to 1998 taught me that company executives prefer to live and work within a 15-minute commute from Pease. The area provides many diverse housing opportunities, from ocean front to farmland or the city of Portsmouth itself.
Another major advantage to locating at Pease is the benefit of having easy access to a highly skilled and available three-state workforce. The demographic reach within a 45-minute commute is huge, with the ability to attract workers from as far north as Portland, as far south as Boston and as far west as Manchester, Concord and the Lakes Region.
2. PDA started off with just the airport, but has expanded considerably over the years. Can you summarize the different facilities that are now part of PDA?
The original Public Benefit Transfer to the state from the Air Force was 3,000 acres and included the airport, the golf course and the land, which is now the office and industrial park. In 2001, the New Hampshire Legislature gave the PDA oversight control of the Port of New Hampshire, which includes the main deep water terminal at Market Street; the Portsmouth Fish Pier; Rye Harbor, and Hampton Harbor. In 2008, the Legislature also gave PDA control over Skyhaven Airport in Rochester, a small general aviation airport with approximately 80 private aircraft.
3. PDA’s mission states up front that it exists to “initiate economic opportunity.” What does PDA do on a day-to-day basis to fulfill that mission?
The mission of the PDA was/is to create a diverse economic engine for the region/state and to utilize the resources of land and existing buildings to create the greatest number of high paying jobs possible. Today, Pease is home to 250+ companies who employ 9,540 people and occupy over 4.3 million square feet of office and industrial space. The total current annual payroll is in excess of $600 million a year.
The PDA day-to-day role is to continue to manage and develop the remaining available land and buildings as well as maintain airport operations and continue the expansion of commercial airline service. Currently Allegiant Airlines offers scheduled flights to Florida destinations and expects to increase the frequency of weekly flights and add new destinations over the next several years.
4. How do you communicate the New Hampshire Advantage to business looking to expand or relocate to the Granite State?
Back in 1990 when I first started working for the Department of Resources and Economic Development, there was no sales pitch for a company considering moving to New Hampshire. David Rines and I were the two state industrial representatives and we decided that we needed to demonstrate “It’s not what we give you to move to New Hampshire. Rather, it’s what we don’t charge you once you’re here, and that is the New Hampshire Advantage.” Dave and I created the State-to-State Comparisons to illustrate that you get to keep more of what you make in New Hampshire. I still continue to use State-to-State Comparisons today.
5. What’s coming up next for PDA?
The Pease International Tradeport and the PDA have come a long way in 25 years but there is still more to do on all fronts. The PDA will continue to promote development of the remaining 60+/-acres of the Pease International office/industrial park. It is estimated another 1,500,000 to 1,750,000 square feet of building space and a total of 11,000 direct jobs could be developed on the non airport land and 120 acres of airport land would be available for aviation use expansion and related development.
With respect to Skyhaven Airport, the 4,000-foot runway re-paving and installation of an approach lights system was just completed. Apron re-design, proper drainage installation, and paving is planned over the next several years. Finally, repairs to existing hangars will occur over time as warranted.
Maintenance and improvements to the Port of New Hampshire will continue, including possibly extending the main pier to accommodate larger ships as well as pier deck resurfacing. A Tiger Grant application is in process of being submitted to finance this multi-million dollar improvement plan.
Happy New Year! No, you didn’t miss the ball drop in Times Square – the new fiscal year just started for the state of New Hampshire, so for this edition of 5 Questions, we interviewed Carmen Lorentz, director of the Division of Economic Development.
For those of you who don’t know her, Lorentz has been the division’s director since January 2014. Prior to her appointment, she served as director of the Belknap Economic Development Council and previously analyzed state economic development policies at New York’s Public Management Institute.
Carmen Lorentz ~ Division of Economic Development
1. What are your priorities for the coming year?
We are working to provide new services to our local partners. One new tool we have is called EMSI (Economic Modeling Specialists, Intl), which we can use to help communities and organizations with grant writing, strategic planning and economic impact analysis of projects. For example, right now we are working on an economic impact study with the Concord Lake Sunapee Rail Trail group to show how much new visitor spending and jobs could be generated along the trail if it is built. We also support the New Hampshire High Tech Council by providing it with quarterly data on changes in employment and occupations in all of New Hampshire’s high-tech sectors. There is no fee for this service.
Another tool we hope to unveil in January is a site selection website. It will enable companies looking for a new location for their business to easily identify buildings or sites that meet their needs and to analyze demographic, workforce and industry data in a customized geography around the sites they are interested in – all on their smart phone or tablet. This kind of tool has quickly become the industry standard in economic development. It will expand our marketing reach for out-of-state business attraction and will help local economic development organizations market communities and properties.
2. What are some of the best-kept secrets of the division?
People are often surprised to learn that our work supported the creation and retention of 8,260 jobs in New Hampshire last year. That is based primarily on three things: the 17 companies and 1,200 new jobs that our recruitment team helped bring to the state; the $650 million in federal contracts that 115 of our government contracting team’s clients obtained, and the $4.5 million in global sales that our international commerce team helped 13 companies land. The state invested $2.1 million in us last year, so that’s about $260 per job. Not a bad return on investment if you ask me.
3. Many out-of-state businesses are considering a move or expansion to New Hampshire. What are the most compelling reasons, in your eyes, for choosing the Granite State over the competition?
Many companies that choose New Hampshire are drawn here because we offer a low tax environment and an exceptional quality of life – low crime, low poverty, low unemployment and highly educated and healthy people. When companies work with us here at the division, they also see how easy it is to get things done in our small and very connected state. Since time is money, that can make a big difference and we get a lot of positive feedback on how responsive and business-friendly our state is compared to other places.
4. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing New Hampshire businesses today and how is the division working to help businesses overcome these challenges?
Workforce. That is the number 1 thing we hear about from the companies with which we work. Many companies could grow faster if they could find people with the right skills. A generation ago, New Hampshire’s economic growth was bolstered by the fact that we attracted a lot of new, very highly educated people to our state. In-migration has slowed considerably, so if we are going to grow our economy, we have to do a better job of making sure that New Hampshire residents understand where the opportunities are and have clear and affordable pathways to good careers.
Here at the division, we are developing a more systematic approach to create partnerships that respond to workforce needs. We had a recent success where Cindy Harrington, one of our business development managers, was working with GE Aviation on it expansion in Hooksett. Officials there expressed a need for people with skills in tube fabrication and formation. Cindy brainstormed with others on our team and identified companies around the state with similar training needs, including Scotia Technology, Titeflex Aerospace, Axenics and ContiTech Thermopol. She convened those companies with the Community College System of New Hampshire and together they created a 10-week certificate program in tube fabrication and formation, which will be offered by Manchester Community College starting this fall. This program will enable people who are not from a manufacturing background to acquire the skills needed for potential employment opportunities at these five companies and others.
We are also working to create a framework based on this example for our staff and partners to use in responding to a company that expresses a need for workers with specialized skills, so that we can ensure the right resources are brought to the table to address the need.
5. The What’s So Cool About Manufacturing? video contest was very successful! Any plans to do it again?
Yes! We will launch the 2016 contest in September. Any middle school teachers who are interested should contact Lorna Colquhoun at email@example.com or 271-2341 to get on the distribution list for the contest materials. You can see the videos from the 2015 contest on our YouTube channel.
More and more New Hampshire companies are exporting, which helps them find new customers and markets and diversify their sales.
The New Hampshire Office of International Commerce works with those companies every day and seeks out new global markets.
This month’s New Hampshire Business Matters radio show (every third Wednesday of the month on WTPL 107.7 FM ), Division of Economic Development Director Carmen Lorentz and Office of International Trade program manager Tina Kasim discuss the upcoming opportunities, including the trade mission to Colombia; the Dubai Air Show and Arab Health.
New Hampshire’s summer season is expected to set records, as state tourism officials anticipate an increase in visitors and visitor spending.
According to the Institute for New Hampshire Studies report, more than 15.9 million people will visit from out-of-state during the summer season, 3 percent more than last summer, who may spend about $2.07 billion, up 3 percent from a year ago.
June, July and August see the largest number of people visiting the state of any three-month travel season, accounting for more than 40 percent of all visitors and visitor spending on an annual basis.
Most visitors to New Hampshire this summer will be from New England, the Middle Atlantic States, and eastern Canada. The number of people visiting from Europe is expected to increase by about 3 percent over summer 2014, with United Kingdom, French and German travel to New Hampshire expected to improve.
VisitNH.gov has a new look for summer. The Vacation Inspiration website has tips and suggestions on how to get the most out of summer. Some of the highlights include unique garden tours, unexpected concert venues, kid-friendly hikes, top amusements and natural attractions and much more. Stay connected with New Hampshire tourism on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube and be sure to follow the #livefreenh hashtag to see what other people are saying about summer in New Hampshire.
We’ve covered some of the higher-level facets of federal government contracting in previous “5 Questions” interview pieces, and this time, we decided to dig a little deeper into the space – looking at state and local opportunities, and what it’s like for a company to actually work with a procurement service.
To guide us in this area, we interviewed Amanda Duquette, procurement specialist with the New Hampshire Procurement Technical Assistance Program (NH-PTAP). Her day-to-day work includes one-on-one counseling with New Hampshire businesses selling their products or services, either directly to the local, state, and federal government or indirectly through subcontracting, as well as performing marketing research and creating strategic plans for companies to get the training and technical assistance they need to come up to speed for government contracting opportunities.
1. You’ve been with PTAP since 2007 and have worked with many, many businesses. How vital would you say PTAP’s services are to the overall success of those companies?
Most of the clients that we help come to us because they aren’t sure how to best pursue government contracts. There are many registrations and processes that need to be completed before a company can be awarded a government contract. We help companies navigate through the red tape and we basically walk them through the entire process. There are many rules and regulations that go along with contracting with the government – and they are constantly changing. I think PTAP’s services are vital to companies who want to successfully work for the government.
2. What kinds of assistance are requested most often by New Hampshire businesses?
Many of our clients are new to the government contracting arena. They are looking for assistance with government registrations and how to find government contracts that are a good fit for their company. They want us to teach them how to set their business up to work for the government and then how to find and pursue government work.
3. Much of the PTAP talk is about federal contracts, but you help with state and local contracts, too. Can you give us a sense of the variety of products and services needed at state and local levels?
There is a vast variety of products and services that are needed at the state and local level. There is usually a need for janitorial services, landscaping/snow plowing, construction/renovation work and automotive equipment. We also see needs for medical and professional services, laboratory equipment and hardware. Our Bidmatch service helps our clients get easy access to bidding opportunities that are found on the state and individual city and town websites, or published in the newspapers.
4. What kind of market research will you perform for clients interested in exploring contracting opportunities?
PTAP counselors do a lot of market research for our clients. We often have clients who want to know if the government is buying their products or services. We take our clients on virtual tours to show them what agencies are buying their products or services. We can show them who their competitors are and what they are selling to the government and we can also show them competitor’s prices and sales amounts. We also teach our clients how to search for government contracts. If our client isn’t ready for direct government contracts, we show them how to find subcontracting opportunities.
5. Sometimes your clients aren’t quite qualified or otherwise capable of contracting with the government. What does PTAP do to help train or otherwise help these companies get to the point of being a suitable contractor?
You are right, not every company that comes to us is ready for government contracting. When we first speak with a new client, we assess his/her company – taking into consideration, its products/services, time in business, past performance and commercial market. We often recommend that companies that are not ready for direct government work reach out to prime contractors, to become a subcontractor for a piece of the project or work. This helps them get their feet wet with government work and helps them understand what it takes to complete a government contract. Also, when a company is a new start-up or not ready for our services, we usually refer them to our partners at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and/or SCORE.
The first-ever New Hampshire Aerospace and Defense Conference was held June 10 and if success is measured in enthusiasm and momentum, then we can safely say it reached new heights at this event.
More than 225 people attended and 31 vendors were featured at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. Building the Supply Chain for New Hampshire’s Aerospace and Defense Export Markets was the theme of what will become an annual event, organized by the New Hampshire Aerospace and Defense Export Consortium; the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development and the New Hampshire Manufacturing Extension Partnership, with sponsorship by BAE Systems.
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Paul Kling, deputy vice president of operations and supplier partnerships for BAE, was the keynote speaker and two panel discussions covered topics relating to export strategies.
Why is this kind of gathering important? Aerospace and defense are two fast growing sectors in our state, which is home to about 350 companies involved in these industries. More than 7,000 people are employed and the average salary hovers around $97,000.
In short, aero/defense is important to our economy and whenever we can bring people from the industry to talk, exchange ideas and share enthusiasm, it’s a good day.
Division of Economic Development