MANCHESTER — The need for better infrastructure, lobbying for a statewide biomedical industry, and lost business blamed on changes in health care laws were the among the issues raised Monday morning during a business roundtable discussion Monday hosted by U.S. Rep. Carol-Shea Porter.
About 18 business owners met with the 1st District New Hampshire Democrat at the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center, Manchester Regional Office, housed in the former Pandora building in the Millyard.
Will Stewart, vice president of economic development for the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, asked Shea-Porter about federal funding for infrastructure to which Shea-Porter responded, "It's nowhere," citing a bitter battle in Congress.
Shea-Porter said funding for the Memorial Bridge and the Sarah Long bridge repairs on the Seacoast were found in a joint effort by state and federal delegations from both Maine and New Hampshire.
On the health care front, one business owner said a bidding process implemented for Medicare and Medicaid has led her company to lose 25 percent of its business.
For 30 years, Jan Soderquist's family has owned and operated Rehab Equipment Associates in Manchester. She said if someone who bought a wheelchair from her company last year calls today to have it serviced, she now has to tell that customer her company is not allowed to perform the work because of those new contracts.
Shea-Porter said that was one of the unintended consequences of the new bidding process, the creation of a new type of Walmart for the health care industry, hurting small businesses.
"We are very aware and very concerned," she said.
Ken Tassey of Boston Therapeutics in Manchester said New Hampshire is overlooking the biomedical industry. His company, which he took public to raise revenue, invented Sugar Down, which currently is sold as a supplement in Italy, Hong Kong and South Korea.
The product needs to go through clinical trials and obtain FDA approval before it can be sold as a drug to treat people with diabetes.
He said Massachusetts companies in Cambridge, Lexington and Woburn are encouraging him to relocate to their cities. Tassey said he wants to stay in New Hampshire, where he has lived for the past 17 years. The product is made in Lancaster, although a Florida company just purchased that manufacturing company so he does not know if it will continue to be made here.
Also attending the session was Tristan "T.J." Evarts of The Inventioneers, the group of Londonderry teens who went on the television show "Shark Tank" and secured a $100,000 investment for their SMARTwheel. The electronic steering wheel buzzes when the driver's hands are in an unsafe position, such as when a teen takes them off the wheel to text or use a cell phone.
Evarts and team members met President Barack Obama when they were invited to the first White House Science Fair. Evarts told Shea-Porter the President ordered a SMARTwheel for his daughters for when they start to drive.
"When I can't get through (to the President) will you call for me?" Shea-Porter asked the young inventor, drawing laughs from the crowd.