Aid available in many forms, from many sources

By Christine J. Davis

Question: "I have heard that there are grants available to business owners in New Hampshire. Is that true? What other economic incentives are available to a N.H. business owner?"

I get this question pretty frequently from owners of businesses of all sizes and from all industries. What is that "New Hampshire Advantage" we keep hearing about?

Unlike some other states, New Hampshire isn't known to dangle hefty incentive packages to lure new business into the state. We don't offer short-term special deals to a prospective company from out of state that isn't available to our current business owners. What New Hampshire does offer, the New Hampshire Advantage, includes financial incentives such as its lack of an income tax and sales tax. Also part of the advantage is its high standard of living, quality of education and geographic location. The state has its issues, but I can personally attest to its Advantage, as I have lived in places that lack it, and it stinks.

The state has government agencies such as the Division of Economic Development, that are reachable and responsive. A business owner can get things done in New Hampshire. It may not be easy, but if you reach out to the agencies that are here to help, you will get a response.

Besides the above-mentioned incentives for locating your business in the Granite State, there are a number of other potential N.H.-based financial incentives. Large energy consumers may be eligible for a grant that covers the cost of an energy audit. Free technical assistance is available here; aid could include an energy audit (valued at $10,000) to businesses that are spending $100,000 or more on their combined utilities. The business owner can take this audit and work with a number of financial institutions, including the N.H. Community Development Finance Authority (which also has some grant funds for energy audits) to assist him or her with a cost-effective plan to implement these recommended efficiencies. These funds are limited, so you will need to check on availability.

The Business Finance Authority offers the Business Energy Conservation Loan Fund, which is financing assistance for energy efficiency improvements.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program offers both grant and loan programs for a variety of projects and programs. You will need to visit the Web site to see if your business falls within the geographic and industry parameters for the projects they support.

The N.H. Community Development Finance Authority, also offers a tax credit program that provides "New Hampshire businesses the unique opportunity to invest and target their tax dollars to community development projects throughout the state in exchange for a 75 percent State Tax Credit through the Tax Credit Program. This program enables businesses to invest cash, securities or property to fund economic or community development projects in exchange for this 75 percent tax credit, which can be applied against any or all three of the business profits, business enterprise or insurance premium taxes. The donation also may be eligible for treatment as a state and federal charitable contribution."

Businesses that are located within an Economic Revitalization Zone may qualify for a tax credit if they are making improvements to the facility and creating new jobs. You will first need to check with your town or our office to see if you are located in an ER Zone. If so, you may be eligible to receive up to $40,000 in tax credits per year for up to five years to be used against your business profits tax and or your business enterprise tax. It is a complicated formula, but our staff will help with the heavy lifting. This program also has limited credits available, but that ceiling was not reached last year.

Nonprofits are quite familiar with grants, as many of them need this support in order to keep operations going. Grants are almost always restricted to nonprofit entities. There is one grant in New Hampshire for businesses, and it is the real deal. The N.H. Job Training Fund is a matching grant program available to both for-profit and nonprofit entities. Companies can be awarded a cash match that ranges from $750 up to $100,000 for skills-enhancement training. That can include just about any training that increases the skill set of your employees including computer training, technical training, leadership and management skills training and lean manufacturing to name a few. Details on this program can be found at here.

Through the University of New Hampshire, the Green Launching Pad "is a public and private sector initiative that enables local start-ups to bring green solutions to market. We discover New Hampshire's best and brightest, and then support them with the financial resources, business infrastructure, and academic expertise to succeed."

Companies apply and compete to be selected as a GLP recipient. Winners not only receive some funding and technical assistance but they also get some great press, which has a lot of value. Also through UNH is the New Hampshire Innovation Research Center. Created by the Legislature in 1991, these grant funds are meant, "to increase collaboration, technology development and innovation between New Hampshire businesses and universities. New Hampshire businesses propose projects in collaboration with researchers, typically at Dartmouth Medical or the University of New Hampshire. Companies then match their project awards to fund the research which often leads to new production methods, new products and sometimes new companies." Click Here to visit their Website to learn more about this program.

Each city, town or county may have its own incentive program for business development. You would want to reach out to your town manager, mayor or economic development director to see what is available. You never know until you ask.

Christine J. Davis works for the N.H. Division of Economic Development as a resource specialist serving businesses in Rockingham and Strafford counties. Her role is to provide the support needed for businesses so that they may remain viable and growing entities in the community. Ms. Davis lives in Exeter with her two daughters. When not performing her work or parenting duties she likes to spend time at the beach and discovering new places and activities in the community with her girls. She can be reached by email here.