Michael Bergeron, senior business development manager
Every day, our business development managers, Michael Bergeron and Cynthia Harrington, speak with site selectors and business owners from around the country searching for the right place to expand or relocate their companies. Their reasons are varied – some may have a deep affinity for the Granite State, while others are drawn to our business friendly climate and educated workforce. Michael talks about the process involved in the expansion/relocation of a company.
1. Business recruitment is an important part of economic development, as it facilitates job creation, encourages growth and diversifies the New Hampshire economy. What’s a typical day like in the life of business development?
We are a sales office for the state, so the priority every day is increasing our pipeline of qualified leads and once we have a strong lead on an interested company, we work with it, confidentially helping the company locate or expand in the state. We market each region of the state differently, based on the region’s strength and assets.
Each part of the sales cycle requires different needs, ranging from cold calls, research, writing proposals comparing New Hampshire with other states, making presentations to decision makers, facilitating meetings with other agencies such as the governor’s office, the Department of Environmental Services and the Department of Transportation; working with the University System of New Hampshire; the NH Business Finance Authority, the NH Community Development Finance Authority; contacting municipal officials; providing real estate tours and working on any issues that the company needs help with in ultimately choosing New Hampshire in which to expand or relocate.
We also work closely with local and regional economic development groups that are important in closing the sale. For example, I recently referred a company from Massachusetts to Jack Donovan of the NH Business Finance Authority, who was able to turn around an industrial bond loan within 40 days—a critical factor in landing the company in Hudson.
2. You’ve been a part of hundreds of business relocations and expansions in your tenure here at the Division of Economic Development. What is is about New Hampshire that draws companies here?
Currently in this market, the number one issue is the availability of skilled employees, followed by cost of occupancy and available office or industrial real estate. If any one one of these factors are missing, the transaction dies. If the company is a family-owned business, the decision is often affected by where its president lives, or wants to live.
And that decision by the owner, and his/her spouse, is predicated on a region with excellent schools, low crime, quality healthcare, cultural options, open space, easy access to major metro areas. Sometimes I have seen decision makers expand to New Hampshire because they have a summer home here.
If it’s a large national company looking for a branch location, then management wants to be close to Boston or Quebec and be confident it can hire managers, and lower the cost of occupancy, compared to the higher rents in the Boston market.
3. Earlier this year, the division unveiled its strategic plan, which identified a number of key industries. How is this helping business development?
The key industries’ clusters in New Hampshire can help attract similar companies that want to be part of the same cluster. For example, we have a growing aerospace cluster and bio/medical device cluster in New Hampshire. When we are on the road at trade shows, we show decision makers where these clusters are located, talk about the educational system that supports these clusters, and how we can help them locate employees and real estate. We understand the kinds of buildings needed for these uses and we can show where to find a good match for employees.
4. NH Economy is back on the road and will attend several trade shows this year. Can you tell us why it’s important to have a presence at them?
It is a myth that attending trade show provides instant leads; rather, it is a higher form of advertising, where we meet people face to face and develop business relationships over time. Finding the right venues and consistently attending is the key obtaining qualified leads. For example, I may meet site consultants at a show, but I may not work with them for another five years, after I develop trust and when an opportunity arises, they think of New Hampshire.
5. You speak with hundreds of companies every year that are considering relocation or expansion. Why is New Hampshire on their list of possibilities?
If they are companies from Massachusetts, Maine, or Vermont, they are looking to retain their current labor force in those states, and also find new employees, by staying within 30 to 50 miles of their current locations. If they are from outside New England, they are looking at New Hampshire because of our lower taxes, skilled work force, easy access to interstate highways and regional and international airports, and business friendly climate.
If it’s a large company, incentives are usually part of the evaluation. In these circumstances, New Hampshire competes with states like South Carolina, Texas, and Florida.