The Energy Services Program at Lakes Region Community College - a two-year degree program that trains people to work in fields that require knowledge of energy efficiency and renewable energy systems - is just the sort of program the state needs to produce the workers who can "grow" the state's economy, according to U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH.
Shaheen made a stop at Lakes Region Community College Friday to tour the Energy Services classroom and meet with college and small business leaders to discuss "green" energy policy and job creation.
The stop was part of a three-day tour of the state to listen to small business owners' accounts of how the current economic crisis has affected them and what they need to sustain their businesses in the future.
"We want to be on the cutting edge in America and in New Hampshire," Shaheen said, adding that the renewable energy and small business communities in the state are critical to New Hampshire's future economic growth.
"To recover from this recession, we'll need to create millions of new jobs. One of the best ways to do that is by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency," Shaheen said.
"Programs like the Energy Services and Technology Program are
preparing our workers and businesses for this new energy economy," she
Shaheen said one of the most important pieces of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is the money that will be coming to New Hampshire to help fund energy efficiency improvement projects and renewable energy projects. She said approximately $26 million is slated to go the state's Energy Office to fund projects and grants, and another $24 million will be distributed to low-income housing programs to make those homes more energy-efficient.
During the roundtable discussion, small business leaders expressed their concerns about reinvestment money being spent wisely with standards in place for job-creation programs, especially in energy industry.
Scott Albert, representing GDS Associates of Manchester, a consulting and engineering firm, said that, if the state cannot produce workers well-versed in energy efficiency and renewable energy, the industry will flounder.
"As we work to increase demand, if we don't have quality workers to meet the demand, we're shooting ourselves in foot," Albert said.
After the roundtable, Albert said he was pleased Shaheen was taking the time to meet business leaders.
"I think it's wonderful that she's getting out and talking to real people about what's going in the energy industry," Albert said.
Debbie Frawley Drake, a board-member of the Belknap County Economic Development Council, said she came to see Shaheen but also to learn a little about the Energy Services Program.
"It's great that we have this program locally that's cutting-edge," Frawley said.
She added that the council is in the process of having local businesses identify projects, including energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, that would be worthy of reinvestment money when it becomes available.
Mark Edelstein, president of Lakes Region Community College, said he appreciated Shaheen's visit, adding that the discussion was productive.
"I thought it was a wonderful conversation," Edelstein said. "The senator recognizes that, although there are challenges we are facing in the economy, there are also great opportunities."