Hassan MWV Economic Council

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan shakes hands with George Epstein of the Echo Group Thursday morning as Jeff Nicoll of Ambix (left) and Benoit Lamontagne of N.H. Business and Economic Affairs look on. (DAYMOND STEER PHOTO)

CONWAY — U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan came to Tech Village to find out what business leaders need and was told that they could use workforce education and housing, and less cumbersome tax credit rules.

Meeting with Hassan (D-N.H.) were Echo Group Chairman George Epstein, Ambix Manufacturing Inc. President Jeffrey Nicoll, Benoit Lamontagne of New Hampshire Business and Economic Affairs and Jac Cuddy of the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council.

Cuddy told Hassan that the valley businesses are doing well revenue-wise but they can't find enough workers.

"We have two big issues up here, the lack of employees and the lack of housing," Cuddy said, adding the economic council is looking at the possibility of putting 120 work force housing units on the Economic Council property.

Hassan said whenever she comes to the valley, lack of housing is the problem that people point her to.

"We did work to expand the moderate-income housing incentives program federally," Hassan said.

The senator said housing developers tell her that local ordinances are "slowing them down" and they produce bigger homes that are financially worth it to construct.

She also said she was working on a bill to give a tax credit to renters.

Rent Relief Act, which would create a new, refundable tax credit to provide relief to families who live in rental housing, and pay more than 30 percent of their gross income on their rental costs.

Hassan discussed a U.S. Supreme Court case called South Dakota v. Wayfair, which she said decided that if a business sells a product to someone in another state then that business had to collect the taxes for whatever jurisdiction that customer is in. It will be extremely complicated for businesses to comply with different states' regulations. She discussed the issue in Concord on Wednesday.

"One of the businesses yesterday was saying if you sell a skein of yarn for knitting a sweater, it's not taxable but for creating a craft at a small business, it is for one of the states," said Hassan. "Every state has those different definitions."

Hassan said she and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) are working in a bill to address Wayfair. It would create exemptions, bar retroactive collections and that create federal taxing standard for how states can tax under Wayfair.

Hassan said a representative from Lupine Pet, a Conway-based business that manufactures leashes, collars and other pet-related items, told her Wednesday that they had to pay a $50 filing fee in order to remit $39 in taxes out of state.

Nicoll said his biggest challenge is that new employees are not skilled in his industry, which is plastic injection molding. He praised state job training programs.

Hassan said she has is working to support such programs.

The bill would also offer supportive services for employees.

She said one issue she is aware of is that some employees get fired because they can't get to work for lack of money to fix their car. Hassan is looking for ways to address that.

Nicoll said employees often struggle with childcare and transportation.

Lamontagne said there were no machining programs open north of Concord "and that's a problem."

Hassan said she was working on a bill to increase availability to research and development tax credits to startups in particular.

Research and Development Tax Credit Expansion Act would double the refundability of the credit from $250,000 to $500,000, extend the credit to all small businesses with less than $10 million in annual revenue and expand how the refundable credit is claimed against payroll taxes.

Epstein and Nicoll both said they would like a tax credit that was less complicated to apply for.

Epstein gave a couple ideas for improving it.

"This is a painful tax credit to claim and an expensive tax credit to claim," said Epstein. 

Hassan said she would take those ideas back to her team.

After leaving Conway, Hassan was scheduled to have events in Bethlehem and Littleton.

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