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Hassan told that finding qualified workers is difficult

Union Leader Correspondent

January 18. 2014 1:27AM
As part of her Innovation Tour, Governor Maggie Hassan took a tour of the laser development company Kentek in Pittsfield. (BENJAMIN C. KLEIN/Union Leader Correspondent)

PITTSFIELD - Gov. Maggie Hassan visited the Kentek Co. as part of her Innovation Tour of small businesses in New Hampshire on Friday, and said that the two most important things she can do for businesses in New Hampshire is to produce more skilled workers and lower health care costs.

"We try to visit a new business every couple weeks," Hassan said. "This way when I visit with children around the state I can specifically tell them what kind of jobs are out there and the opportunities that exist here in New Hampshire."

Kentek, a New Hampshire-based company in operation since 1983 with 21 employees at the Pittsfield location and 28 total employees spread out across the country, manufactures thousands of different components involving the use and application of lasers.

"My biggest message for the governor is how much the current environment of uncertainty is hurting small businesses," said Kentek president and owner Thomas MacMullin. "It is pervasive, and it's easy to think about health care and the federal reserve, but on the local level we also worry about tax structure and energy costs."

During the tour, MacMullin showed Hassan many of the different products they manufacture, many of which are geared towards safety.

"Despite what you see in the movies, most lasers are still invisible, so we manufacture ways to ensure the safety of people who have to work with them, whether it be eyewear or special work environments," MacMullin said.

MacMullin said his business is almost equally dependent on private and government contracts, adding that about 25 percent of the total business is derived from research institutions.

MacMullin also talked about the difficulty advanced manufacturing businesses face.

"It is very difficult to find employees who are qualified. Some can't even do basic math," MacMullin said, adding that he is having a difficult time find an experienced welder.

"Today we have such a societal focus where every kid has to go to college, and while I am a big supporter of advanced education, for some kids that really that isn't the best thing anymore," he said.

"For a lot of students, they would be better off learning a trade, and there are a lot of exciting, challenging and technologically-based jobs out there."

Hassan agreed, and said that one of the education issues she has been focusing is improving science, math and technology education throughout the state.

"We have some of the hardest workers in the Granite State. It's not a matter of working hard enough; we just need to give the skills to our workers so they can do the jobs that are out there," Hassan said.

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