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5 Questions with Carmen Lorentz, NH Division of Economic Development

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

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 lorna.colquhoun@dred.nh.gov 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.

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