Next step: change the culture of state government

Job creation will take more work

By Rep. Laurie Sanborn / For the Monitor

While the Legislature has succeeded in maintaining New Hampshire’s low unemployment rate and relatively stable economy, our future success in creating jobs and expanding the economy in will require a dramatic cultural change at the top and at all levels of government.

As a state representative and chairwoman of the New Hampshire House Business Coalition, I am incredibly proud of the work we have done at the State House and the progress we have made to help begin pulling New Hampshire out of this recession. In addition to balancing a very difficult budget on time, we reduced numerous excessive regulations and fees and made important tax reforms to help our small business community so it can grow and hire.

However, we are not out of the woods yet, as real improvement and achievement of our goal to improve the economy and create jobs will require a pervasive cultural change. Today, if you ask most employers, it feels like the government has become strictly an enforcement agency whose primary activity is to limit, assess, fee, fine and penalize. Government imposed, expensive and time-consuming obstacles are presented at every turn, from opening a new business and complying with ever changing regulations, to expanding an operation and responding to a problem. Several potential entrepreneurs I know have simply given up trying because the barriers are so overwhelming.

The culture we seek is one in which responsible employers are encouraged, not discouraged. One in which businesses feel welcome in New Hampshire, appreciated for creating jobs and contributing to our economy, and assisted as they grow and change.

Successfully changing the culture requires aligning our goals of economic expansion and job creation with our attitude and behavior in all interactions between employers and government. This means government officials at the state and local level need to first think, “how can we make this happen” or “how can we fix this problem” and then follow up with helping along the way. It’s a mindset change from primarily restricting, regulating and enforcing employers, to one of assisting and nurturing responsible businesses.

We must be reminded that our state does not operate in a vacuum; we need to compete with other states to attract, develop, promote and retain the best employers. We are presently seeing many states become more of a partner with the business community, so New Hampshire, as well as its cities and towns, must do the same or better.

In my 2000 Webster’s New Pocket Dictionary, the No. 2 definition of “service” says “governmental work.” As taxpayers, businesses deserve services from their government to help them navigate, understand and comply with our complex laws and rules. Somehow, during the past decade, our government has gotten away from a culture of helpful service that finds solutions for employers in a prompt, friendly manner.

We can pull New Hampshire out of this recession, create jobs and dramatically expand the economic base in New Hampshire if the Legislature and all levels of government are working together toward the same goal. Our vision in the New Hampshire House Business Coalition is to make New Hampshire the best state in the nation for businesses because we know that’s where the jobs come from.

The 100 state representatives in the New Hampshire House Business Coalition will continue to do their part in passing good legislation that reduces unnecessary and costly regulations, improves fairness, and supports responsible employer behavior. But we need a fundamental cultural shift in our state, from the governor and the state agencies, to our local officials, in order to accomplish our mutual goals. Let’s all embrace the concept that government first and foremost is here to assist, not to resist, our state’s small businesses and employers.

(Republican Rep. Laurie Sanborn of Henniker is assistant deputy majority leader of the New Hampshire House and chairwoman of the House Business Coalition.)