Star Wars fan, Michael Skelton is as comfortable talking about Jedis as he is discussing pro-business legislation. “I will always enjoy a deep discussion with a fellow fan about our favorite [Star Wars] movies or books,” he says.
Skelton, who most recently served as president and CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber for seven years, has assumed the reins of the Business and Industry Association (BIA) as president and CEO. He succeeds Jim Roche, who left in August after 17 years in that position.
Skelton’s career path, which now has him sculpting policies that will benefit NH businesses, started out at St. Anselm College in Manchester where he majored in political science.
As an undergrad, Skelton interned with a government relations firm in Concord. And, after graduating, he served as Gov. Craig Benson’s liaison with the Executive Council. “I came to appreciate that New Hampshire has a level of transparency and access to state government that is unique and special compared to other states,” Skelton says. “If you want to influence an issue, you have the opportunity to do that. You can make a difference.”
He then joined the Manchester Chamber to lead its government affairs effort. Skelton says he recognized the value chambers bring to the business community. “Our organization evolved and grew into a modern and impactful business advocacy and marketing organization,” Skelton says. “The Manchester chamber had such a big impact on my life personally and professionally. It was difficult to consider leaving, but I knew I was ready and the organization was ready for new challenges. The BIA presented a wonderful opportunity to take all I learned and apply it at the statewide level.”
Skelton says thanks to the team at the BIA, its board and the efforts of its previous CEO, the BIA is in a strong position. The organization began transitioning back to in-person and hybrid events this past spring. Skelton says the BIA is also focused on legislation that it perceives could hurt the state’s economic recovery, including opposing a number of proposals that would prevent businesses from instituting vaccine mandates and other return-to-work policies.
Skelton also says the lack of affordable housing is an issue. The BIA opposes a bill that would undermine the Housing Appeals Board as, he says, it would inhibit the state’s ability to respond to the housing crisis. The BIA supports SB 400, which includes funding for training for planning boards and provides incentives for the development of affordable housing,
Photo of Michael Skelton courtesy of the Business and Industry Association