CHANGE IS EXCITING, and the NH Tech Alliance is full of change as we officially enter a new chapter. As I start as the alliance’s first full-time executive director this month, I am pleased to have this opportunity to connect with the New Hampshire business community through the Ask the Expert column. I am going to flip the model a bit because ultimately, you are the experts and we — as an organization — can only be effective if we tap into your knowledge, expertise and needs.

Julie Demers

JULIE DEMERS

NH Tech Alliance

This new chapter includes embarking on a 5-month listening tour, moving into our first dedicated space for the alliance, welcoming Matt Benson as the new board chairman and building a team that also includes Joshua Cyr, Lee Ann Lewis, a highly committed board and over 100 volunteers aimed at serving the technology ecosystem. I am very excited about the listening tour because as a new organizational leader, it is a great opportunity to hear from companies — Tech Alliance members and nonmembers from across the state — to help inform how we align our programming, outreach and services with the business community.

In a nutshell, here’s why it’s critical to our state’s economy to support the tech sector as best as we can. According to the recently released national Cyberstates report, the New Hampshire tech sector employs nearly 70,000 people or 9.8% of the workforce. These jobs on average have an 80% higher median wage than median state wages. According to the report, the tech sector added 1,723 jobs in 2018 over 2017 and accounted for 13.8% of the state’s gross domestic product — up a significant 1.2% over 2017!

Listening tours across N.H.

We are planning seven listening tours across the state running from late September through January. They are specifically designed to hear from our constituents — members and nonmembers of the alliance. While we have a few set questions, the goal is to be organic and stimulate dialogue because we don’t plan on doing much of the talking. Our focus will be on listening, so we can gain feedback from all constituents to ensure that we are not missing the mark in terms of focus, programming and advocacy. We selected a number of locations -– some because of their geography and others that focus specifically on audiences such as startups, companies in the biomedtech space and young professionals. These tours will help define how we work moving forward.

In the next few weeks, we will be posting and disseminating the full schedule so people who want to participate can select the date and location that works best for them. We are also developing an online forum to solicit additional feedback for those who could not participate. All of this will be available on our website at NHTA.org. We hope these tours also foster new ideas, connections and partnerships given how interconnected we all are in the Granite State.

All of the feedback we receive will be shared with our alliance board and will help influence our strategic planning going forward in our effort to best serve the growing and critically important tech ecosystem, as the Cyberstates data noted. It’s also a great opportunity to assess if there is a need for change and if there are opportunities that we might not have otherwise been capitalizing on based on business feedback. It is a new chapter for the alliance, and now is the perfect time to dig deeper and define who the alliance will be five to 10 years from now and even longer.

We will also be looking for continual input as we welcome people to visit our new dedicated office space at 30 Amherst St. in downtown Manchester. For the next few months, we will be offering up coffee hours for members of the community to come visit our new space, meet the team and learn and listen how best we can serve the tech ecosystem. The first floor of the building is occupied by Consuelo’s Taqueria, the alliance is on the second floor and the third floor is occupied by Forcivity, a growing tech company. With a small conference room and open space for collaboration, we’ll be hosting meetings and small events for the community.

Last, we are excited to have a team of full-time staff running the alliance on a daily basis for the first time. Thanks to the board and past part-time leadership, we’ve rebranded and grown to a point where we can support an in-house team to more comprehensively serve New Hampshire’s tech ecosystem. Lee Ann Lewis will be supporting memberships and events, while Joshua Cyr will focus on serving the startup community given his deep expertise in this vital area.

The tech ecosystem is a core element of current and future economic and employment base in New Hampshire. Over the next several months, I am certain we’ll uncover more great New Hampshire stories of excellence that can be featured in this Ask the Expert column.

Julie Demers is the executive director of the NH Tech Alliance (formerly the NH High Tech Council). She began in this role Sept. 3.