The countdown is on for the Big Announcement of the results of the What’s So Cool About Manufacturing? video contest. Tune in here tomorrow! 9 am!
Archive for February, 2016
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s New Hampshire District Office has a great, free program coming up that’s geared toward established business owners like Michelle McManus, of Benchmark Office Systems in Londonderry. She is a graduate of the Emerging Leaders Initiative, a seven month program (did we mention it’s free?) to help them continue on the path of sustainable growth. More information is available here, including the link to register and below is Michelle’s account of the program.
1. You’ve been a small business owner in Londonderry for 16 years. Could you tell us a little about it?
Absolutely, my husband and I started the business back in October 2000. We were working for a similar business in Denver, Colorado and decided to move east to start our own business and eventually start a family. We always had a business owner mentality (working all the time, forward thinking, what we could do to make the business run better, etc)
2. Even after 16 years, you continue to seek out programs that make you a better business owner, such as the SBA’s Emerging Leaders Initiative. What drew you to this particular program?
One of my customers had been involved in the program and she said I needed to get involved. As a business owner, you sometimes feel like you are on an island, yet forget other business owners are in the same boat. This intrigued me to step back from the day to day operations and focus on how to get better.
3. What surprised you about the training … what was your ‘a-ha’ moment and the most valuable takeaway?
The most important take away is that I need to not do everything myself, boy that’s hard! I learned how to re-focus my energy on hiring people that can do better at certain tasks than I can do. I had to “fire” myself from doing all the hiring and involve other people in my business to help me make those valuable decisions.
4. The Emerging Leaders Initiative is a free program, but it does require a time commitment. Was it worth it and why?
Time away from business still costs money, but you get out of it what you put into it. If you focus your efforts, you will gain invaluable insight and renewed focus.
5. What would you say to someone considering enrolling in the upcoming program, which begins in April?
If you think you can do it all, you can’t, well you can, but not forever. To become successful, you need to try and duplicate yourself or parts of yourself to achieve greater success. Invest the time in yourself and your business.
1. What is your role at the Mt. Washington Valley Economic Development Council and what does the organization do for the Valley?
I’m the executive director of MWVEC, and I also serve as the president of Technology Village Realty Management, a subsidiary group created by the MWVEC Board of Directors to oversee the design, construction and management of the 80-acre Technology Village land parcel.
The MWVEC is the economic development resource for the Mt. Washington Valley and two towns in western Maine – Fryeburg and Brownfield. The council’s loan fund has been used to help create 83 business loans with a revolving balance of over $5 million to date. The council also built the Technology Village, which houses 12 businesses and was able to provide an affordable facility for Granite State College to purchase. Inn partnership with the college, we have been able to provide boot camp classes to the business community, with over 2,700 employees participating over the last five years.
2. You’ve been with MWVEC since 2001. In your experience, what is it about the Mt. Washington Valley region that makes it particularly attractive for businesses?
Residents in the Mount Washington Valley have an incredible work ethic, which translates into a productive workforce. The Valley has an incredible environment, rich in natural resources for people to enjoy. Business owners also have a lower overhead in operating costs, due to a lower wage scale compared to the southern part of the state.
3. Can you tell us about a recent big win or successful project launch in which the MWVEC was involved and what it will do for the region?
Our biggest windfalls recently have been both a Northern Borders Regional Commission grant, and a Community Development Enterprise grant. The Northern Borders grant provided the council the ability to extend Technology Lane another 500 feet, providing four shovel-ready lots with infrastructure and are shovel ready. The Enterprise Grant is allowing the Council to provide technical assistance to more small businesses in the Valley.
4. Putting yourself in the shoes of a business considering moving or expanding to the Mt. Washington Valley from out of state, what are 2-3 things they should be planning for to make the transition easy, and how does the MWVEC help with them?
The council is willing and able to help a business that would like to relocate to the area. An ombudsmen will help to get through all the permitting process both locally and on a state level.
5. What’s new, exciting, coming up soon for MWVEC?
As a result of the success of the Northern Borders Grant, we’re already moving to put the four newly available lots into use. We’re currently working with a business that is looking to build on one of the lots in late 2016.
Every month, our director, Carmen Lorentz, takes the reins of New Hampshire Business Matters on the airwaves at WTPL-FM 107.7 to talk about programs, trends and other things happening that are of benefit to our businesses.
Yesterday, Dave Pease was her guest. He’s the program manager for our Government Contracting Assistance Center and talked about the program, how it can help businesses bid on, and win, government contracts and an upcoming opportunity that can help them get started.
A premier location. An airport. Land – and enough of it – for industrial development. Major improvements taking place where Interstate 93 runs through it. And beer. We caught up with Will Stewart, president of the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, who filled us in on what’s happening and what’s ahead in this region.
1. Derry-Londonderry is one busy place these days, which is great to see. The region had a great piece of news at the end of 2015, with the ribbon cutting at Pettengill Road. What’s all the excitement about there?
It sure is busy place, and the newly-opened Pettengill Road is at the epicenter of the excitement right now. The road itself is less than a mile in length, but it opens up nearly 1,000 acres to industrial development, right alongside Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and between Route 3 and Interstate 93. This is the biggest single economic development opportunity in the state since the creation of the Pease International. About 1.2 million square feet has already been built, or is under construction there, with more in the pipeline. This is truly a case of “if you build it, they will come.”
2. The latest 10-year transportation plan recently submitted by Gov. Hassan includes plans for Interstate 93 and Exit 4A. How important is this for the communities?
It’s huge. Exit 4A is going to be a game-changer for the entire region, but especially for the towns of Derry and Londonderry. Like Pettengill Road, Exit 4A will make possible new development opportunities, including the Woodmont Commons planned unit development. Spanning 629 acres, Woodmont Commons will be a vibrant mixed-use urban village – a town within a town – featuring shopping, dining, entertainment venues, as well as residential, office, educational, and medical facilities.
3. Travelers coming north from Massachusetts and points south on I-93 pass through Greater Derry Londonderry. What are some reasons for people to take a break and spend some time?
This is a great spot to break up a trip, whether for a day, an afternoon, or just an hour or so. For those in a hurry we have great restaurants that are just off the interstate. For those who have a little more time, we have some of the state’s best apple orchards and pick-your-own farms, not to mention standout attractions like the Robert Frost Farm, the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire and Tupelo Music Hall. The greater Derry-Londonderry region also boast the state’s longest section of paved rail trail, which attracts bicyclists and others from surrounding towns and even surrounding states.
4. The area is such a great location for businesses and industry, but it’s also a great place to live. What’s your favorite story about a business inspired by the unique opportunities here?
Back in 2013, Melanie Davis and Carmel Shea were at the end of their bicycle ride on the Derry Rail Trail. Hungry and thirsty, the two friends looked around downtown Derry for some place they might be able to grab a snack and an iced coffee.
And while they saw plenty of great restaurants and lunch spots in downtown Derry, Davis and Shea said they didn’t see any coffee shops, or any other downtown establishments where they would be comfortable entering clad in bike gear and carrying their helmets. So in true entrepreneurial fashion, the two set out to solve the problem they encountered.
Such was the spark for the opening The Grind Rail Trail Cafe, a community-focused, bicycle-themed specialty coffee bar in historic downtown Derry. Today, The Grind is one of the most popular spots in town (and my favorite out-of-office meeting spot).
5. We’ve talked about transportation, commerce and lifestyle. But we need to talk about beer. What’s up with the brew industry?
Yes, we absolutely do need to talk beer. Much to the delight of area residents and those passing through, the towns of Derry and Londonderry boast four – yes, four! – craft breweries and one meadery. And they’re all within a stone’s throw from both one another and Interstate 93. I’m not aware of any other place in the state (or elsewhere for that matter) that has that high of a concentration of breweries so close together. The region also boasts a bevy of other brew-related businesses, from one operating a portable canning line to one specializing in the installation and maintenance of draft beer lines.
There we were on Friday afternoon, watching the snow fly and finishing up the work week when this arrived: A handsome plaque proclaiming New Hampshire as first in the northeast for state workforce development.
From Site Selection:
“Site Selection’s second annual state workforce development rankings are intended to provide a general sense of which states in a given region are devoting sufficient or superior resources to preparing their workforces for current and future employment.”
If your business is seeking ways to boost your workforce, check out the information on our website and then give us a call.
Part of the growing local movement in the United States is an awareness that people can invest their dollars in ways that positively affect their communities, while also earning a return. Throughout this year, three Granite State institutions−Live Free & Start, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund−are teaming up to present a series of forums called Impact Investing in New Hampshire. We asked one of the presenters, Community Loan Fund VP of Economic Opportunity, John Hamilton, about the series. You can visit the Live Free and Start website to see the schedule and register for one or more of the events.
1. Impact investing will be the topic of a number of forums around the state this year. What is impact investing?
Many people are familiar with “socially responsible investing,” which avoids investments in certain industries or activities that the investor finds objectionable.
Impact investing is a more intentional approach for the investor that seeks to support specific social or environmental outcomes—such as more good jobs in New Hampshire— and earn a financial return.
A common misconception is that impact investing doesn’t provide a positive financial return. However, recent reports and years of investments show that impact investors don’t have to sacrifice earnings.
So we’re excited to partner with Live Free and Start and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to bring this information to current and prospective investors across New Hampshire. We’re holding six Investing in NH forums in which each of the organizations will present various ways individuals can have a positive impact on the people and businesses of the Granite State through impact investments.
2. How important is this kind of investing to the state’s business ecosystem?
Impact investments can be more flexible, timely and risk-tolerant.
Flexible because impact investments often come from private sources–individuals and foundations–and without a lot of restrictions. They can deliver a range of types of capital (debt, sub debt, royalty and equity).
Timely because these investors can shape their capital to the needs of the business and react more quickly than traditional financing sources.
Risk-tolerant because some impact investors are willing to take greater risk if there is an opportunity for better returns, particularly if the investment would benefit New Hampshire’s people, communities and economy.
3. Can you give an example of where impact investors made a difference in New Hampshire?
In 2013, Rustic Crust, a natural pizza product company based in Pittsfield, needed growth capital to get its product into more grocery stores throughout North America. The Community Loan Fund had made a previous royalty investment and wanted to support this growth, but the company needed more financing than we could provide at the time.
Fortunately, we knew of an individual who was interested in co-investing with us. Together, we provided the needed capital, and Rustic Crust has since nearly doubled its number of full time jobs, while also increasing its part-time workforce.
This is particularly satisfying because a fire destroyed Rustic Crust’s production facility not long afterward. Yet because of strong management and community support, including from the company’s investor, Rustic Crust is thriving.
4. From the outside looking into New Hampshire: Will encouraging this form of investment draw more businesses or start-ups to the state?
We hope that the number and appetite of angel investors here encourage start-ups and businesses looking to relocate. There are definitely investors seeking out those kinds of opportunities.
And inasmuch as a goal of encouraging businesses to relocate or start here is to increase the number of good jobs, that goal aligns perfectly with those of many impact investors.
We know one of the motivations of some impact investors is to keep their money local. They enjoy financing projects they can drive past and feel the “I’m glad I put my money there” glow. There are many strong businesses already in New Hampshire, owned and run by our neighbors and friends, which are ready to grow and only lack the kind of flexible capital I described earlier.
5. Aside from attending one of the forums taking place throughout the state from now until the end of the year, is there a place where people can get more information or speak with someone?
The forums offer a rare chance to share the perspectives, experiences and opportunities offered by three organizations, so we hope that anyone interested in finding out what it means to be an impact investor will attend one of them. You can see the schedule and register here.
The next best option is to visit the web sites of the three participating organizations: Live Free and Start, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and New Hampshire Community Loan Fund. You’ll find a range of local and regional opportunities. That’s a good thing−for the Granite State and for New Hampshire investors.
We launched our monthly newsletter on Monday and the plan is to put it out on the first of every month. It will be jam packed with news about economic development in New Hampshire, who’s who and what’s what that keeps the Granite State economy humming.
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You don’t have to wait from month to month to keep up with us … we’re on the popular social media channels and invite you to follow along:
Yes, we’re connected with the web, but we’re also connected by that time-honored instrument, the telephone. You call, we answer: 603-271-2341.
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