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September 05. 2013 9:01PM

Ayotte calls for immigration reform


Rob Davidson, a genetic engineer at Merck’s GlycoFi in Lebanon, explains the facility’s processes to U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte during a tour of the facility on Thursday. (MEGHAN PIERCE/Union Leader Correspondent)

LEBANON — U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, called for immigration reform Thursday during a tour of Upper Valley businesses.

Ayotte met with employees of Merck’s GlycoFi facility and said meeting employees with diverse backgrounds reminded her of the importance of immigration reform, which she supported earlier this year, she said.

She is especially concerned about making more avenues available to prospective immigrants with science, technology, engineering and math skills, perhaps through the H1B program that is for skilled workers.

“Right now, we only allow 66,000 H1B visas across the country. Last year, that was filled in four days. And so therefore this is an area we really do need to expand what is available for people to stay here and be part of our country. And really contribute to our economy and our development. We’ve always been on the cutting edge of technology and new ideas, entrepreneurship, and all of the things that really founded this company,” she said.

Later she toured Hanover businesses Hypertherm Inc. and Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory.

The tours were a continuation of the other statewide business tours that she started in August, she said, as part of an effort to engage New Hampshire businesses in a dialogue and focusing on ways to help Granite State businesses succeed and grow.

During the tour, Ayotte turned to the situation in Syria.

“The Assad regime did use chemical weapons against its own people. The evidence is very strong that they used the weapons. It wasn’t the opposition or some other group that used these weapons. … Obviously the use of chemical weapons is deplorable. The question now is what should be done about it,” she said. “I still have some substantial questions (such as) if we do take military action, what is the plan? and what do we hope to accomplish? And will we be able to deter him from further using these chemical weapons? or would it potentially exacerbate the situation in the region by taking military action?”

She said she will return to Washington Sunday to rejoin the discussion.

Natarajan Sethuraman, executive director at Merck’s GlycoFi, asked Ayotte if there was a possibility that high-speed train service would be extended from Boston to Lebanon, where it could benefit industry. Merck’s GlycoFi employees often travel to other Merck facilities across the East Coast, including New Jersey.

Ayotte said while she understands the need for transportation infrastructure and supports federal grants for that, rail expansion needs support once completed. She said she is not a fan of ongoing subsidies for transportation.

GlycoFi was founded in 2000 by two Dartmouth professors, Charles Hutchinson and Tillman Gerngross.

The company develops yeast-based technology used in the creation of drugs.

The company was acquired by Merck in 2006. It employs 44 people.



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