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April 19. 2013 4:51AM

Governor stresses need for economic development

WINDHAM - During an appearance at the Castleton Banquet and Conference Center Thursday morning, Gov. Maggie Hassan shared highlights of the state's new budget plan, stressing the importance of building the economy while helping those in need.



Dozens of area business officials attended the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce's fifth annual Economic Development Breakfast and Business Pillar Awards event on Thursday.

"New Hampshire is at a threshold for economic development and now is the time for it," Gov. Hassan said.

During her 40-minute speech to the local business community, the governor emphasized the need for economic growth, job building and attracting new and cutting-edge businesses to the Granite State while keeping its citizens safe and healthy.

"We need to make higher education accessible and affordable for all of our people," she said, noting that right now the cost of college courses, even at the state's community colleges, are "prohibitively expensive for many."

"The ever-rising tuition rates can prevent many families from sending their children to school in New Hampshire and that's just unacceptable," she said.

The governor said her proposed budget plan stresses the importance of bringing together schools and their surrounding communities while focusing on the importance of building students' skills in science and technology.

Of equal importance, the governor said, is the need for expanded technical support for existing businesses in order to keep the state's business climate attractive for "innovators and entrepreneurs."

The governor said the state's deteriorating transportation structure bears immediate attention as aging roadways have proven costly for countless commuters.

"As you know, the I-93 project remains unfinished and we have hundreds of red-listed bridges," she said. "There are no more quick fixes."

The governor also shared her plans to expand Medicaid benefits while reversing tax increases to the state's hospital system, as well as the restoration of the state's mental health system.

"We cannot walk away from our ability to provide basic things like quality, affordable healthcare," the governor said. "Because our economic success depends on our ability to maintain quality of life."

Building one "high end, highly regulated casino" is an ideal way to increase the state's revenues, she noted, thanking the local Chamber of Commerce for supporting the Senate bill that would legalize gaming in the Granite State.

"Revenue from that one casino could be used to address many of our needs," she said. "And with Massachusetts already moving forward with gaming, we can no longer pretend expanded gambling isn't coming here. It's already here."

Later, several area businesses were honored with Business Pillar Awards for their community contributions.

This year's non-profit winner was Food for the Hungry, a food pantry and outreach mission based at the Pleasant Street United Methodist Church in Salem.

In 2012, Food for the Hungry assisted nearly 200 Salem area households with groceries. The organization is hoping to build its new "Hope Center" next door to the church sometime in the future.

The new business award winner was Windham's ConvenientMD, an urgent care center that opened last fall.

The clinic provides complimentary flu shots for local students and teachers and has already sponsored a number of community events and organizations.

Earning the award for the small business category was Salem's Daisy Cleaner, while Canobie Lake Park earned the award for the large business category.

Both businesses were recognized for assisting citizens in the surrounding community.



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