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NH workers and businesses weather a month of blizzards

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 21. 2015 7:59PM
Since Laura Startzenbach started working at Solidscape in Merrimack, she,s experienced a winter storm event every week. (David Lane/Union Leader)

Since Laura Startzenbach started at Solidscape a month ago, she's experienced a winter storm every week.

With the heavy snow, she's battled traffic congestion, uncleared roads and black ice. Her commute to the Merrimack company is typically 55 minutes, but when it's snowing, it could take her up to 2 1/2 hours.

"There were five accidents that day too," Startzenbach said of her first commute. "It really was quite terrifying. I listen to classical music in the car on the way into work so that helps with the stress."

The parade of snowstorms pummeling New England has caused a lot of white-knuckled driving these past few weeks - especially when it comes to commuters traveling over state lines.

Work at Merrimack's Solidscape, which manufactures 3D printers, is pretty hands-on so not many employees have the capability to work from home, said Bill Dahl, vice president of marketing and communications. Solidscape's employees have consistently been coming to work even during the snowstorms.

"Unfortunately there's been a lot of horror stories of near misses, excessive delays and actual accidents," Dahl said.

Startzenbach is one of the Solidscape commuters who can - and has - completed work from home when the commute has turned sloppy.

"I can do marketing online research and can do work from home on the really bad days," said Startzenbach, who lives in North Grafton, Mass. This winter has definitely made for an interesting commute, she said. "You can't print four letter words, right?"

Susan de Mari, director of marketing at McLane Graf Raulerson & Middleton, commutes each day from Tyngsborough, Mass. The law firm has four locations in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and de Mari regularly travels between the company's Woburn and Manchester offices.

De Mari said her commute typically takes about 30 minutes on an average day and has only increased to 45 to 50 minutes when she's driven in the snow. While the highways have been fairly clear and easy to navigate, the real trouble comes when she hits the exit ramps.

"When I get off the highway that's usually where the delays start because of the traffic and people trying to navigate around snow banks and such," de Mari said.

Scott Filion, president of Velcro Industries in America, said employees typically spend a fair amount between the New Hampshire and Boston locations. The company is based in Manchester but recently moved its corporate office to Boston.

Filion said the snow has not only affected commute times but production. The company called "snow days" and halted production so employees wouldn't have to travel in the snow. Many of the company's employees have laptops and VPN (virtual private network) access so working from home on particularly treacherous days has been an option, he said.

When it isn't an option, though, Filion said employees try and make light of the sticky road situation.

"A good dose of humor has enabled us to laugh it off even when staring down at exit roadways at 5 p.m. assures us it will be another two-plus-hour commute home," Filion said. "Our collective focus is on our clients and customers, so we want to ensure that whatever the weather, we can keep everything running and working."

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