Panel members brainstorm over attracting startups
MANCHESTER — Attracting more startup companies in New Hampshire will require better state marketing, more access to financing and skilled workers as well as a more fostering community for entrepreneurs to set up shop here, members of a new state advisory committee suggested Tuesday.
John Orcutt, professor of law at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, said he has seen a “very, very concerning” trend of New Hampshire finishing in the bottom quarter of states for the number of new business starts over the past eight years after years of much higher rankings.
“If you don’t have those business starts, you don’t have the makings of future medium-sized companies and high-growth companies that can be wonderful things,” Orcutt told the first meeting of the Live Free and Start Advisory Committee, tasked with helping to make it easier for high-tech businesses to start up and grow in New Hampshire.
Gov. Maggie Hassan told the committee “we are a perfect place for startups, but we don’t necessarily have all the pieces in place like we should in today’s economy to build the kind of ecosystem we all really think we should have.”
Hassan cited a few ideas she heard from the business community, including expanding ways to finance startups and offering a website, so “with one or two clicks,” would-be entrepreneurs can learn what they need to do to set up a business.
Hassan said a recent executive order she issued requires state agencies to make many business forms available online by next year.
Members of the advisory committee gathered at the Alpha Loft on Elm Street, creating a list of areas that could be improved to assist entrepreneurs.
Parker Hansel, founder and president of Turmoil Inc. in West Swanzey, said entrepreneurs need a meeting place where they can share ideas.
“A startup person needs encouragement and needs someone to talk to,” Hansel said.
Hollis McGuire, regional manger of the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center in Nashua, said there was “a lack of seed capital,” and that business startups also need “high-quality technical assistance.”
Ryan Barton, CEO of Mainstay Technologies in Belmont, said successful larger high-tech companies produce employees who want to start their own businesses.
Orcutt, who co-wrote a study, “Improving New Hampshire’s Startup Environment, said another area hurting the state in attracting entrepreneurs is the series of political shifts at the State House over the past six to eight years. That has “created a feeling of instability” and caused entrepreneurs to worry that state laws could be in flux going forward, he said.
Jeff Rose, commissioner of the state Department of Resources and Economic Development, said New Hampshire doesn’t have “big bags of money” to offer large-scale tax incentives to businesses to move or expand here.
“We’re very confident that we’re a lower cost state” for businesses to operate in, he said.