By Dave Lemery | Watchdog.org
In his second inaugural address, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu touted the successes already seen by the relatively new Department of Business and Economic Affairs.
“We’re creating economic opportunities,” he told a joint session of the Legislature after being sworn in for his second term. “[BEA officials are] doing a tremendous job picking up the phone, going after businesses, showing them the very positive regulatory environment, very positive tax environment we’re creating here.”
But a recent analysis from Forbes shows that Director Taylor Caswell and his team at the BEA still have their work cut out for them. The annual “Best States for Business” study ranked New Hampshire as just the 34th best state in the nation, the second year in a row that the Granite State landed at that level.
The numbers under Sununu’s guidance, while less than ideal, mark a reversal of the trend during the four years of former Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. New Hampshire was ranked 31st by Forbes in Hassan’s first year in office in 2013 before dropping to finishes of 35th, 37th and 36th in the next three years.
Forbes pointed to natural and human resource challenges as some of the main problems for New Hampshire.
“Like the rest of the northeast, New Hampshire suffers from high labor and energy costs,” the report notes. “One advantage the state has over its neighbors, however, is on the corporate taxes front, with Moody’s Analytics’ figures placing New Hampshire 23 [percent] below the national average.”
The analysis also noted that New Hampshire led the nation in lowest poverty rate and was sixth-best in unemployment rate.
Study author Kurt Badenhausen collected “41 metrics across six main categories: business costs, regulatory environment, economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life” in compiling the state rankings. North Carolina came in first in the 2018 rankings, and Alaska was 50th.
Among New Hampshire’s regional neighbors, Massachusetts was 19th, Connecticut 40th, Rhode Island 43rd, Vermont 47th and Maine 48th.
Forbes had the Granite State listed 45th overall for business costs and 38th for regulatory environment despite efforts during Sununu’s time in office to improve the business climate.
Still, businesses are choosing to locate in New Hampshire. In his Jan. 3 address, Sununu listed several recent new business ventures in the state, including Hitchiner in Milford, Lorza in Portsmouth and BAE in Merrimack, among others.
“The list goes on,” Sununu said. “These are businesses that are moving here, that are growing here, that are expanding here, that are investing their dollars in our communities and in our families.”
And the governor vowed to address the workforce shortage both through investments in education and in work requirements for people in the state’s Medicaid expansion program.
“Next month, I’m very proud that we will be proposing the single largest economic investment into workforce the state has ever seen,” he said. “Specifically, in our healthcare workforce, in our nurses, … we’re going to invest $24 million, and we’re going to double the number of graduates in all of these areas for our state.”