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5 Questions with Matt Cookson, New Hampshire High Tech Council

High technology. It’s not just a business sector in and of itself. It’s a critical element of every successful industry, integrated deeply into the work of companies and the lives of their employees.

New Hampshire has a strong and growing tech pedigree, and to learn more about it, we interviewed Matt Cookson, executive director of the New Hampshire High Tech Council. The council is a member-driven organization with a focus on advancing innovation throughout the Granite State and Cookson himself has been actively engaged in many boards and organizations in New Hampshire in his 25-year career.

Cookson

Matt Cookson ~ NH High Tech Council

You’re in your fifth year as executive director for the New Hampshire High Tech Council. How has the industry evolved since then?

I took over as ED in 2010 and like other sectors it was a challenging time economically. Fast forward to today, and we are seeing solid job and sector growth, great movement in advanced manufacturing, software development, apps, cyber-security and other areas.

I’d say there is much greater recognition that the tech sector is absolutely key when it comes to driving economic development. Serving, supporting, and growing this sector will lead to job creation, enhanced state revenues, and stronger communities. Look at the difference in Manchester, for example, as well as the expansion of incubators across the state, including areas such as Plymouth.

Technically speaking, almost every industry is high-tech in one way or another. How has that affected the NHHTC’s mission and outreach over the years?

It’s true – hospitals are tech, real estate is tech, automotive is tech. It has affected us in terms of workforce development, knowing that tech training is key, be it at the four-year level for computer science, at the two-year level through the partnerships our community colleges have formed with advanced manufacturing companies, such as Safran or Hypertherm, and at the training level as well.

From a membership standpoint, we have always attracted members from the service sector as well, so our outreach has been consistent. Last, from an outreach perspective, we have become much more proactive and while we have a strong membership base in the Route 3 and Route 93 corridors, we plan to do more in the Seacoast in the near future in terms of creating a stronger presence in that tech-heavy region.

Where are the best opportunities in the traditional high-tech space for businesses in New Hampshire- or for those considering a relocation to New Hampshire?

Geographically, we have strong hubs in greater Manchester, Nashua and Portsmouth. In a recent report, Nashua led the pack with the highest number of advertised tech jobs in the state. We will continue to see relocations that hug the border because companies like to draw from Massachusetts. We also hear from our members along the highway corridors that having rail in the region is attractive to those in the tech industry.

Quality of life is a huge selling point for companies moving to the Granite State. What are tech companies finding here that they can’t get in Boston, Silicon Valley, or other traditional tech hubs?

There continue to be three primary selling points:

– The quality of life piece with an emphasis on having the mountains, the ocean, and Boston within easy drives

– The fact that employees will likely be better off in New Hampshire than other major tech hubs because they will not be paying an income or sales tax

– The overall cost of living is substantially less than a Silicon Valley-type of environment

What are the NHHTC’s top priorities for improving the state’s high-tech industry over the next one to two years?

Supporting start-up companies through visibility, networking and competitions; reducing taxes and regulations on business to encourage growth and investment; highlighting best practices and innovation to spur new partnerships; and working with the educational sector to provide data on what industries and skill sets are most needed for today’s and tomorrow’s workforce.

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