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Nashua business leaders chat with Hassan

Union Leader Correspondent

June 17. 2014 8:08PM

Gov. Maggie Hassan 

NASHUA — Three months after the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce released the results of a statewide survey focusing on passenger rail and gambling, group members had the opportunity to discuss those topics with Gov. Maggie Hassan. After delivering her annual State of the State address to the chamber on Tuesday, city business owners and local officials spoke with the governor about important issues impacting not only the Gate City, but the entire state.

Chris Williams, president of the chamber, asked Hassan whether the ongoing rail study will address the economic benefits of bringing passenger rail to New Hampshire. “I think we will have some indication of what it might be able to do,” replied Hassan.

According to Hassan, the results of the study should be available at the end of the year, at which time there will need to be further discussions on how to move the rail project forward.

The Nashua Board of Aldermen is a strong supporter of commuter rail, along with Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau and the chamber.

Earlier this year, the chamber released the results of its statewide survey conducted by the University of New Hampshire and including more than 500 telephone participants.

Passenger rail received strong support with 68 percent of participants in the survey favoring commuter rail, 7 percent opposed and 24 percent undecided.

In addition, rail received support from survey participants even with a required investment of up to $100 million and annual operational subsidies of up to $15 million. Fifty-four percent of those individuals surveyed said the cost made no difference to them, according to the findings.

David Heath from Melanson Heath and Co., who is also a chamber board member, asked Hassan whether the rail study could be integrated into the Stay Work Play New Hampshire initiative. Heath stressed that younger people tend to appreciate rail, especially residents to the south.

Hassan agreed, saying young adults like to use public transportation, and she believes that more people will be attracted to New Hampshire if rail is easily available to them. Efforts are already underway to address rail with the Stay Work Play NH project, she added. Bob Sherman, president of the New Hampshire Teachers Union, questioned Hassan on her thoughts about bringing a casino into Hudson. Sherman said a casino could help alleviate some budget concerns facing the state.

“I support a single, high-end casino in the state,” said the governor. “I will continue to support it.”

In the chamber’s recent survey, the results indicated that 58 percent of New Hampshire voters support expanded gaming in New Hampshire, with 31 percent in opposition and about 12 percent undecided. Hassan also spoke with chamber members about college tuition, student debt, pay equality, technology, business incentives and more.

“We are seeing progress across our state, but we have more work to do,” she told the crowd.

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