Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Future of Tech in New England

I hauled up to Bedford, NH this morning for a breakfast event put on by the NH High Tech Council and the NH College and University Council, part of their "Forum on the Future" series.

The message I took home: New Hampshire is thinking harder than the other New England states about how to remain competitive and retain the smart young people who grow up here, or come here to get an education.

UNH economist Ross Gittell kicked things off with a presentation: tech workers in NH earn an average of $75K a year... compared to $26K for people who work in retail...and $43K as an overall state-wide average.

But... NH tech employment seems to have peaked in 2000; today's level (48,756) is a bit lower than it was in the early 1990s.

Also, the entire New England region, Gittell said, is losing young people.

The current lock-down on credit will likely have a dramatic impact on high-tech, he predicted... financing will be in short supply for start-up companies (I suspect he was focused on non-venture capital backed start-ups)...and fewer businesses will be making investments in new hardware or software.

Gittell ended by pointing to two growth areas for the future:

    > Healthcare IT and defense (two "stable industries," as he termed them)

    > Green businesses (a growth industry)

We then had a panel discussion with a number of NH execs. I asked them what one issue we ought to focus on to ensure that tech continues to prosper in NH (and the wider New England region).

The two things we spent the most time talking about:

1. How do we create a stronger connection between students and the innovation economy (through internships, company visits, entrepreneurs and execs visiting campuses, etc.)?

2. How can we better spread the word outside of the region about all the innovative things that happen inside the region? That'd help attract both people and businesses.

(For once, no one was blaming VCs for being too timid and risk-averse, or complaining that no one in New England ever networks...)

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Will Candidates Talk Tech Policy on November 12th in New Hampshire?

A group of New Hampshire VCs, profs, and tech industry execs have been trying to put together a forum on November 12th featuring presidential candidates from both parties. They're getting an assist from the New England office of TechNet, the technology lobbying organization.

Here's the premise:

    To govern effectively, the next President needs to have bipartisan support and have a clear vision about how to grow the Innovation Economy. This forum offers candidates the opportunity to communicate their plan to a live audience of hundreds of New Hampshire and national technology executives and University of New Hampshire students as well as to the millions of technology-interested Republican, Democratic and Independent voters in New Hampshire, California and other early states through national and local media coverage of the event

It sounds incredible, and apparently Intel chairman Craig Barrett has agreed to moderate. They have a venue, at University of New Hampshire, and an impressive group of organizers that includes venture capitalist Jesse Devitte, UNH provost Bruce Mallory, and Fred Kocher, president of the New Hampshire High Technology Council.

Only problem: no candidates are yet on the hook. At the bare minimum, organizer Ross Gittell told me last night, this event would work with one candidate from each party (in that scenario, their goal would be to get Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.)

To me, this would be one of the more interesting primary season events...so I'm hoping it does come together.

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