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Laurel Bistany: Staying responsive to NH's business needs

EXETER - A Nottingham mother of three is striving to make New Hampshire supportive to businesses and more attractive to young workers.

As executive director of the Regional Economic Development Center (REDC) of Southern N.H., Laurel Adams Bistany, 37, is extremely concerned how young people lack incentive to remain in the state, which jeopardizes future success.

Bistany said she's heard from a lot of companies which are concerned how the state is not producing enough of a skilled labor pool which can replace existing workers. Without a strong base of employees, she believes businesses will fail or move away from New Hampshire.

Like generations before them, young people need good jobs at living wages, Bistany said, along with affordable housing and access to cultural activities. She said these opportunities are either already here or well within reach in the state.

As she sees her three sons - Jake, 12, Tyler, 9, and Zachary, 7 - grow, her concerns are shared with fellow parents who want to see the next generation succeed while remaining close enough to remain involved in each other's lives.

"The beautiful part of New Hampshire is we're so responsive since we're so small," Bistany said.

This hope has propelled her into the world of economic development.

While working at the American Independence Museum, Bistany said she began at the REDC as a part-time bookkeeper in 2001. Around 2004, Bistany said she decided to dedicate herself to the organization and became financial director, which eventually led her to take on the role of executive director in 2008.

For the past 17 years, REDC - located at 37 Industrial Drive in Suite F2 - has been providing growing businesses with financial assistance and communities with planning and economic development training.

"REDC is a private nonprofit whose mission is job creation," Bistany said.

Bistany said recessions breed innovation, and REDC continues to provide assistance to businesses. She said REDC provides technical experience and financing through their "multi-million dollar revolving loan fund."

"Actually, recession is when we're busiest," Bistany said, adding these are the times when banks tend to be financially conservative with loans.

Bistany said the ongoing federal fiscal strife could affect some sources of funding, such as Community Development Block Grants, but the organization is "fortunate to have a good loan pool."

As a result, Bistany said companies are able to grow. She added the REDC also helps communities attract and retain businesses "through both grassroots economic development and infrastructure improvements."

Bistany said the REDC will eventually relocate their operations to a new facility, which will revive a vacant lot on Main Street in Raymond. She said the new building is about the same size as their current location, but they will be able to use the space more efficiently.

"We bought it from the town for tax value," Bistany said, adding construction should begin in the spring and be ready to occupy next year.?Bistany said officials in Raymond are very excited about the REDC coming to town, especially since they bring value to the community beyond tax revenues. She added the REDC "is really a downtown business."

Bistany said the new facility will include a regional training center, a business resource library and room for a conference center in central Rockingham County.

"It's not incubation space - it's transition space," Bistany said.

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