Candidates campaigning for major offices often pick businesses and especially manufacturing facilities to introduce themselves to managers and employees. I accompanied one gubernatorial candidate, Ovide Lamontagne, last week on tours of three of our premier local manufacturers. Together, these three facilities employ around 2,000 workers.
I am convinced these tours leave lasting impressions on men and women who may be elected to high offices. Our tour started at Whelen Engineering in Charlestown and the "region’s dean of manufacturing" (my description), CEO John Olson, showed us around. Then, it was on to a popular stop for politicians, the Sturm, Ruger plant in Newport, where Tom Sullivan, Vice President of Newport Operations, led our group around. We finished at the family owned, Latva Machine in Newport, with Mitch Latva guiding us through his John Stark Highway facility.
Each business offers different products and services. While the economic world is unsettled, these businesses go on year after year and not only survive but prosper much of the time. That is not unlike the 2,100 other manufacturing companies and the 1,600 high technology companies that make up The Smart Manufacturing/High Technology sector which is the key engine of the state’s economy.
New Hampshire, and especially this region, has a long tradition of manufacturing. The sector employs one out of six of the state’s private sector workers. And for every 100 manufacturing jobs created, up to 138 additional jobs are created in the rest of the state’s economy. Manufacturing job creation has a multiplier factor for the rest of the economy. And we know manufacturing provides long-term jobs at well above average pay scales.
Government has a role in developing a quality workforce that is critically important to manufacturers. And a quality workforce just doesn’t happen. As John Olson points out, we cannot expect public schools to be able to afford equipment for training that may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even a million dollars or more, per unit. He suggests we need to have schools partner with manufacturers so educators can have access to state-of-the-art equipment for student training.
Utilizing our community colleges too, offers many opportunities to reduce the cost of higher education while preparing students for the workforce or to go on to complete a four year bachelor’s degree program. The future of our area as a center of manufacturing will depend in large part on the development of a predictable flow of qualified workers.
Governmental officials need to do what they can to help the manufacturing sector by preserving the state’s competitive advantages and mitigate its disadvantages. Investment in infrastructure and especially education, reducing the costs of healthcare and insuring we have a fair and reasonable tax regime are all important to leaders in manufacturing.
I believe plant tours like the ones last week are very helpful to candidates. Some will be elected to office and will begin their service better understanding our state’s economy, manufacturing generally and especially in our region, thanks to their tour experiences and conversations with owners and managers. My thanks to these businesses that regularly open their doors to candidates and elected officials so that we can learn more about what they are doing … it is very helpful.
For many readers, passing through the Labor Day weekend sets a line between the heart of the summer and the approaching fall season. It is a good time to think back on pleasures shared with family and friends.
This has been a wonderful summer for me. With five grandchildren visiting from places out west and being regularly visited by two other grandchildren who live locally there was plenty to do. There was the summer fun of swimming, boating and leisurely floating around on paddleboards that residents and summer visitors often take for granted.
Another activity was going to the theater. The two local granddaughters, Eleanor and Finley, and I attended all of the regular Children’s Theater performances by the New London Barn Playhouse Junior Intern Company. And when the two grandsons were here from Portland, OR last month, they tagged along for season’s final show, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
Adults, too, enjoyed the theater. Judy and I went to four performances including my favorite play, Our Town, and Agatha Christie’s, The Mousetrap which I first saw in 1974.
This was the Barn Playhouse’s 80th year. It is the oldest, continuously operated summer stock theater in New Hampshire. From the start, it has counted on community involvement. That means volunteers to do ushering and other tasks as well having local actors perform in the shows. When you look through the program for any show there are often names and pictures of actors living in Newport, Claremont, New London and other nearby towns.
The Barn Playhouse is also like a summer camp providing young artists with a chance for hands-on experiences from rehearsing and performing to building sets and sewing costumes. Interns spend 14 weeks living together next to the Barn Playhouse. It is a summer of immersion for the interns in all aspects of the operations of our local theater.
And as theater goers, we enjoyed the 2012 season and look forward to the spring announcements of the New London Barn Playhouse schedule for next summer. We are appreciative of those who work to insure that the theater keeps going year after year.