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Addresses New England Council

(Bedford, N.H.) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) spoke today about the challenges in keeping the American economy competitive in a globalized marketplace and the solutions available for meeting those challenges. Her remarks to the New England Council focused on exports, innovation, deficit reduction and a comprehensive energy policy.

Shaheen, a member of the Senate Committee on Small Business, has been a long-time advocate of supporting innovation and increasing small business exports. As governor, she led New Hampshire's first trade delegation beyond North America.

The New England Council is an alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations. It is the country's oldest regional business organization.

Some excerpts of her prepared remarks are below:

On the need for a competitive economy...              

"The overarching challenge facing New Hampshire, New England and the entire country is how we remain competitive in an increasingly global economy.  As a former small business owner, I know it is business, not government, that creates jobs, but I believe government has a critical role to play in fostering the positive business climate we need to remain competitive. That's been my focus in the last two years and where I will continue to focus in this new Congress.               

"How can government help foster that entrepreneurial business climate? I think it requires a multi-pronged approach.  Access to credit, increasing exports, controlling health care costs, cutting red tape, R & D, STEM education, a 21st century transportation system, reducing  the national debt, a comprehensive energy strategy  - all of these are central to unleashing the innovate spirit that is so alive and well in New Hampshire."


"I know that in some quarters it's become fashionable to say this country's best days are behind us. I don't believe that for a moment. As I travel around New Hampshire I see cutting-edge innovators who are creating jobs and young people who are ambitious and full of hope. I intend to do everything I can as a U.S. Senator to help create the conditions that will allow our businesses to grow and our workers to find good jobs."

On exporting...

"As many of you know, I've long been an advocate for increased exporting and I've continued that work in the Senate. The fact is this last recession has had a long-term impact on consumer spending and we need to do a better job of tapping the international marketplace. Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers live outside the U.S., yet only one percent of small businesses export. That's why I co-sponsored the provisions in the Small Business Jobs Act to boost programs that help small businesses sell their products and services overseas. Some of you may have attended the Granite State Export Fair my office organized last March which brought businesses together with state and federal trade officials. Next week I'm bringing Fred Hochberg, the chairman of the Ex-Im Bank, to the state. I intend to do everything I can to help our businesses gain access to new markets.               

"I've also been pushing for reform of our defense trade control system - ITAR. New Hampshire has a strong reputation for the quality of our defense-related manufacturing. "Dual-use" products, those that have both commercial and military applications, represent an area of tremendous potential for export growth, but overseas sales are hampered by an export control system that was designed for the Cold War. Last week I visited Active Shock in Manchester, which makes state-of-the art shock absorber systems to be used by the military in Humvees. They can also be used in lots of other vehicles. They told me, however, that too many potential foreign customers say they are not interested because they just don't want to deal with the U.S. export control system. We need a common-sense 21st century export control system that keeps Americans safe and helps our businesses remain competitive."               

On innovation ...

"When assessing our strengths in a global economy, one of our key advantages is American innovation. How do we maintain that creative dominance? One way is the Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, program, which has been very helpful to New Hampshire innovators. In just the last two years, New Hampshire firms received 80 SBIR awards totaling $26 million. In the last couple of weeks I visited three companies - Airex in Somersworth, Spire Semiconductor in Hudson, and Active Shock, which I just mentioned - that are doing cutting-edge research because of the SBIR program. Unfortunately, SBIR has been operating under short-term extensions for a few years now. Short-term extensions are a problem because businesses and federal agencies need certainty in planning. We need to pass a long-term reauthorization in this session of Congress.               

"One of the advantages New Hampshire has over other states is our highly educated and skilled workforce, but we need to do more to get students excited about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. STEM-related fields are expected to be the fastest growing occupations of the next decade, but not enough students in the United States are pursuing education in these fields. In today's global economy, our students must have access to better STEM training and mentors in the field. In the coming weeks I intend to introduce legislation that will help give more high school students in New Hampshire and across the country access to non-traditional science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs, like the FIRST Robotics competition. "

On fiscal responsibility ...

"To ensure America's competitiveness in the future, we also need to come up with a plan to address the national debt. I've been working with a bipartisan group of senators who are committed to working on deficit reduction and comprehensive tax reform. I'm always on the lookout for wasteful programs.  I recently called for greater oversight of reconstruction funding in Afghanistan and Iraq, where there has been a lot of wasteful spending. For example, the Department of Defense spent $1 million on a water park in Iraq. A water park.  And it closed in a year.  But, as the work of the President's bipartisan commission showed, seriously addressing the long-term deficit will not be easy. It will require shared sacrifice and looking at both spending and revenue. But we must do it if we want to remain an economic leader."

On energy...

"We need a national energy policy. The world is on the verge of the most significant economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution.   This transformation will be built on a fundamental change in the way we produce and use energy.  Millions of new jobs will be created in alternative energy, energy efficiency and other forms of clean energy.  These jobs aren't a lock for the United States - they will go to the first countries to invest seriously in clean energy.  China, Germany, and even Brazil, are aggressively vying to lead the charge and secure these new jobs.   We need a national policy that will create the necessary incentives for consumers and industry to innovate so we can position the United States as a world leader in energy once again. My biggest disappointment from the last two years is that we did not adopt a comprehensive energy strategy.