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Low Business Taxes Encourage High-Tech, and Advanced Manufacturing in New Hampshire

Mali R. Schantz-Feld (Feb/Mar 08)
"New Hampshire is bullish on its economy, defying regional and national trends," says Mike Vlacich, director of the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development. The Granite State was reported by The Tax Foundation to have the second-lowest overall tax burden behind Alaska, with no sales tax, use tax, broad-base income tax, capital gains tax, or inventory tax, and no higher assessment for commercial or industrial real estate. "New Hampshire is the only state in New England to have projected economic growth above the national average," says Vlacich.

Expanding clusters include financial services and insurance, high tech, advanced manufacturing, and defense-related medical devices. Good news for the insurance sector came from the Liberty Mutual Group, which expanded to a new 350,000-square-foot office building on 225 acres in Dover, and John Hancock Insurance's relocation of its existing 65-person Portsmouth staff to the Pease International Tradeport to accommodate an additional 150 to 200 people.

To encourage continuing technology exploration, the Research and Development Tax Credit was established in 2007. In some areas, technology already plays a major economic role. Manchester-Nashua took ninth place on Computerworld's list of America's Techiest Areas, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2006 American Community Survey.

In November, computer company Dell Inc. agreed to buy EqualLogic, a company specializing in data storage systems that simplify the way businesses store and protect information; they will maintain the 225-employee operation in Nashua. The $1.4 billion cash deal is reported to be the largest cash acquisition in history of a venture-capital backed startup, according to the National Venture Capital Association.

Alternative energy also portends future investment. "As a result of our forest products, we see opportunities for alternative energy with an increased focus on our creative biofuels sector," says Vlacich. The state adopted a Renewable Portfolio Standard in April that requires state utilities to generate 25 percent of electricity from renewable resources by 2025.

The export sector is heavily fueled by technology. "We have grown to rely on international commerce for success," says Vlacich. The American Electronics Association (AeA) cites that 43 percent of exports from New Hampshire are technology-related, placing it seventh in the nation for technology exports. While medical device companies are a focus of international development efforts, consumer electronics, computers and peripheral equipment, and industrial electronics comprise the leading technology export sectors.

Bolstering the state's work force is the New Hampshire Job Training Fund, which will distribute up to $1 million in grants annually. Vlacich notes that the fund is heavily supported by the Governor's Economic Stimulus Initiative. Hypertherm a metal-cutting technology firm in Hanover, and Pelham Plastics, a supplier of precision plastics to medical device manufacturers in Pelham, are the first two recipients of the grants. Hypertherm will direct its grant towards training of 25 new machinists in computer and machining fundamentals, and advanced manufacturing procedure and practices; the company plans to hire more than 100 machinists over the next three years. Pelham Plastics will match its $7,482 grant for computer and specialized equipment training for 19 of its employees.
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