Aaron Bagshaw, president of Nashua's WH Bagshaw Co., was in Washington on Wednesday afternoon to testify at a Congressional hearing meant to spotlight the accomplishments of small manufacturers and their contributions to the American economy.
Bagshaw was invited to speak at a House Small Business Committee hearing by Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster, a member of the committee. Kuster knows WH Bagshaw's history as the oldest U.S. pin manufacturer and felt the company's 143-year history added a New Hampshire perspective to Congress' celebration of National Small Business Week.
"Annie Kuster's office has been great," said Bagshaw who spoke to the Union Leader a few minutes before being called to testify. "I look at other reps, and I see we've got a special person here."
Since taking office, Kuster has said she is focused on strengthening American manufacturing and ramping up training for a 21st-century work force.
And those goals have resonated with Bagshaw, who said finding skilled workers who can run his company's CNC — computer numerical controls — machines — has been an ongoing challenge.
"It's hard filling positions," Bagshaw said. "A lot of times we have to train an individual for up to a year to get them to where they need to be."
Bagshaw was planning to tell members of the Small Business Committee that federal grant money to update the machine and tool technology program at Nashua Community College has helped bridge the skills gap. He was also planning to make a pitch for tax incentives for smaller companies like his that don't have the staff to concentrate on training, work force development and other aspects of business development.
"Tax incentives for these types of partnerships would be quite welcome," Bagshaw said.
Last April, Kuster introduced the Workforce Development Investment Act that would provide incentives for businesses to partner with schools on programs that would teach skills so that students would be job-ready.
Kuster is also touting New Hampshire as a prime site for a federally-funded Manufacturing Innovation Institute.
Bagshaw said he was used to public speaking so he wasn't feeling nervous about testifying in front of the committee. And WH Bagshaw, which started out making pins for the textile industry and now makes pins and fasteners for defense and aerospace industries as well as medical and automotive businesses, has a story to tell.
Only one thing seemed to surprise him on his trip to Capitol Hill.
"The number of interns here is amazing," he said. "Really, you should see it."