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Another View -- Walt Havenstein: NH needs a leader with the experience to improve our economy

September 03. 2014 7:42PM

NEW HAMPSHIRE voters are blessed. We are blessed to hold the first-in-the-nation primary. We are blessed with an engaged electorate. And we are blessed to be consistently presented with a deep bench of candidates from whom to choose. Yet this November will be different from years past. Voters are not simply picking elected officials, they are answering a more serious question, one that hangs in the balance the future of our state.

When my wife Judy and I came here in 1999, New Hampshire was firing on all cylinders. Now our economy has stalled. Last year, economic growth was an anemic 0.9 percent, the lowest in the region and slower than Vermont and Rhode Island. Since 1999, we’ve lost 25 percent of our high-tech manufacturing jobs. We’ve fallen from 14th to 35th in new business startups. We have the third highest business taxes in the country.

The “live free or die” way of life that we cherish is now in jeopardy. New Hampshire’s ability to keep the twin evils of an income and sales tax at bay depends upon two things: controlled spending and a growing economy. To do that requires both a fiscally conservative approach and a breadth of experience managing large, complex organizations.

In a state with a diffusion of power, it will take extraordinary leadership to meet that challenge. To lead, you have to empower and inspire people. You have to set expectations and align diverse groups of people around goals. You have to motivate your team to succeed: whether that’s a board of directors or the Executive Council, management teams or the Legislature.

Maggie Hassan is a good politician, but she isn’t leading because she doesn’t know how to fix our state’s biggest problems and she lacks experience managing large, complex organizations. For the past two years, she has been in the governor’s office doing on-the-job training. We can’t afford two more years with a novice at the helm.

The single most significant difference between the candidates in the governor’s race is that the ideas I’ve presented are based on things I’ve done before, during a combined 43 years in the Marine Corps and in business.

My economic plan commits the state to helping create 25,000 jobs over 2.5 years by changing the culture in Concord to focus on the private sector. That’s the same approach I successfully took at BAE Systems, where we created 1,500 new high-tech jobs right here in New Hampshire.

My commitment to balancing our budget, without a sales or income tax, is based on having managed an annual budget three times the size of that of the state of New Hampshire’s. When the BAE Systems pension scheme was massively underfunded, we fixed it, while keeping our commitments to employees. We need to do the same for our state system.

My approach to aligning our education system is based on the work I’ve done with UNH and the not-for-profit U.S. FIRST, which led to scholarship and internship programs.

This November, New Hampshire voters will decide on not only the direction of our state, but they will take a step in framing our culture and our mindset for the next generation.

We could give up on the New Hampshire Advantage. We could choose to believe that our problems are caused by an aging population, rather than recognize that it is a symptom of young people leaving to find work. Or we can choose to have the economy we want, which creates the kind of jobs that will keep young people here.

Yet before we can bring a fiscally conservative approach to our state’s challenges, we must first nominate a candidate who can take on and beat the current governor. As Republican voters go to the polls on Tuesday, the question before them is who is best placed to do that.

If you share my conviction that we can be the engine of economic growth in New England, if you believe that together we can remake our own future, I would ask for your vote.

Walt Havenstein, former CEO of BAE Systems, is running for the Republican nomination for governor.

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