Startup company aims to spotlight Granite State businesses
By DAVE SOLOMON New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER — If you were shopping for a good bottle of wine, and saw one with a label suggesting that your purchase would help the New Hampshire economy, would you pick that bottle over another?
Anthony Comito thinks so, and he's basing a new business on that idea — the Economic Information Exchange Co. The Goffstown native has developed a system for assessing the economic impact that certain purchases can have on a particular state or the nation as a whole.
"We'll rate a product or service, or in some cases an entire establishment like a restaurant," he said. "We'll go in and evaluate information from the owner, the accountant, the bookkeeper, to get the data we need. Then we come up with a calculation and award a rating from one to five stars."
Comito has a patent pending on the system he's designed to create the five-star ratings, and is now in the process of building the company.
"We look at the portion of the purchase price that's going toward things like labor in the state," he said. "We also look at the components and where they come from, the level of charitable contributions in the state and taxes paid. There are some weighting factors that go into it. A dollar spent on New Hampshire components or New Hampshire labor will yield higher points than charity and taxes."
Adjustments are also made for factors that a business cannot possibly control.
"You can't grow bananas in New Hampshire," he said, "so you don't want to punish a restaurant that has banana pudding."
A recent graduate of UNH with a B.A. in communications and a minor in business, Comito is pursuing a second bachelor's degree at SNHU and working toward his CPA designation, while living in a Manchester apartment and surviving on earnings from the last tax season.
The 25-year-old entrepreneur is dedicated full-time to his startup.
"I truly believe we have one of the most innovative economic tools in recent memory," he said.
His most likely customer is a business that knows it has strong connections to the state's economy and wants to leverage that fact in its marketing efforts.
"The dream is, you pull in the people who are doing well in that regard and eventually you pull in other people until you have businesses competing on who can make the most economic impact in the area where their customers are," he said. "It creates a multiplier effect."
Comito claims to be in serious negotiations for his first contracts, which call for the customer to pay an upfront fee for the analysis that determines a rating. If the company then decides to join the program, it has to pay an annual licensing fee to display the Economic Impact logo on its products or premises. "The hope is to keep it credible and keep it accurate through semi-annual or quarterly updates," he said. The analysis and licensing fees are variable and tied to the size of the business.
The Economic Information Exchange Co. hopes to partner with its clients by helping them find ways to purchase components or otherwise conduct business in ways that will result in a higher rating at the next update.
"We're hoping to build a network in the local economy and help steer customers in the right direction," he said. "If a lot of wine-makers are buying their bottles out of state right now, maybe we can find producers right here in New Hampshire, and all of the sudden there is a market for a New Hampshire bottle-maker."
The long-term business plan relies on a certain critical mass to succeed.
"It's going to be tough to find a five-star rating," he said. "And the value of the system will grow as there are more and more products to compare."
While the "Made in America" label, monitored by the Federal Trade Commission, fills a niche, it has too many loopholes and nothing like it exists at the state level, Comito said. As much as 90 percent of the various components of a product can come from other countries, and the product still qualifies for the "Made in America" label. He believes a five-star system is better able to capture such nuances.
The young entrepreneur has been talking to potential partners and investors, and getting advice from his professors and mentors.
"The reaction has been good," he said. "Everyone says it's going to be tough, but people really like the idea."