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Businesses Press for Top Legislative Priorities

Published Friday Feb 10, 2023

Author Michael Skelton

Businesses Press for Top Legislative Priorities

The next legislature, including the governor and Executive Council, will be sworn in next month and begin their work. Many of the most critical issues awaiting them are great challenges for NH businesses and other employers. 

Soaring costs of energy, workforce availability, workforce housing and limited child care options stretch beyond the workplace into every community across the state. Each threatens to slow NH’s economy, and it’s imperative that they remain front and center when lawmakers take their seats in January. Granite State employers can help by speaking up early and often, and the Business & Industry Association is here to help.

BIA is NH’s non-partisan leading business advocate and statewide chamber of commerce. We’ll be in the State House and Legislative Office Building week after week fighting for our members and employers at large, representing one in seven Granite State jobs.

The BIA’s nearly 400 members, which employ 89,000 people in a variety of industries, have expressed the greatest threats to their success as they are unfolding. Those concerns were echoed repeatedly by other industry and community leaders during our 10 roundtable policy talks this past summer, which are held before the fall elections to help inform BIA’s public policy priorities.

Energy is a Top Priority

Top concerns are clear and as winter bears down and high energy costs lead the list. Business expansion and consumer spending are crucial to a vibrant economy, but both are at risk from current energy costs. 

This problem is the most difficult to tackle at the state level because many of the causes occur outside NH. That’s why BIA continues to advocate for an inclusive, all-energy-resources approach to achieve a cost-effective, reliable and diverse energy mix. It’s vital to support market-based solutions with pragmatic policies that set a path toward greater energy independence while delivering both economic and environmental benefits. 

Workforce availability and housing are chronic challenges for employers, and they are entwined. The state is making gains by incentivizing the building of more houses, condos and apartments that are affordable for a greater number of workers. Additional housing can help reverse NH’s stagnant population growth. The state’s population increased just 4.6% between 2010 and 2020, the lowest in a century.

Education/Housing Investments

However, businesses are clear the shortage of workers, especially in manufacturing and the trades, is not just about housing. Limited support of alternatives to traditional four-year colleges has steered many high school students away from these careers. BIA supports greater efforts to strengthen career and technical education in the state and promote alternatives to traditional college.

BIA members also see the cost of post-secondary education in NH as contributing to the worker shortage. Limited funding pushes the cost of college higher and is causing many students to leave NH for more affordable options. Increasing the state’s contribution to its university and community college systems, without driving business costs unsustainably higher, is a priority.

The lack of affordable, quality child care is also among causes of the worker shortage as many parents are forced out of the workforce because they can’t find daycare. BIA supported the NH Department of Education’s “Work As Learning” program, launched this past summer. The program provides high school students with paid work experience and academic credit, both of which can reduce the cost of required credentials and degrees. 

Child care is a notable example as “Work As Learning” allows high school students to explore this career while helping daycare centers recruit new workers. More innovative solutions such as this program are needed to increase the supply of quality child care and help ease the overall worker shortage.

These critical issues need innovative solutions and partnerships between industry and government. Collaboration requires industry leaders to continue to communicate with elected officials and for the latter to prioritize the importance of policies that promote a healthy business climate and robust economic future for NH.

Michael Skelton is president and CEO of the Business & Industry Association. For more information visit 

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