Building a Strong Foundation for a Prosperous Economy Conference Highlights Health Care, Education, Housing, Transportation, and More


CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute’s Fifth Annual Conference, “Building a Strong Foundation for a Prosperous Economy,” was held Friday, February 23, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, NH. Conference speakers and panel participants examined key policy concerns related to health, education, housing and transportation, and addressed the impacts potential federal and state policy decisions may have on New Hampshire’s ability to meet current and future needs.

In her keynote address, Barbara Couch, President and Chair of the Board of the Hypertherm HOPE Foundation, outlined examples of how Hypertherm supports employee needs relative to transportation, health, and child care.

“If we really want to build a strong foundation for a prosperous economy, we need to look close to home,” said Barbara Couch. “I am privileged to be part of a company that has the resources to help address the topics we are discussing today. But I am acutely aware of the reality that not all businesses and organizations have the resources to do the same, and I ask that we be mindful of that when addressing these issues.”

NHFPI Policy Analyst Phil Sletten presented a New Hampshire economic and demographic overview, which included a brief update on the status of state revenues. The presentation highlighted the state’s economic progress since the recession while also noting many of the jobs that have been created since 2008 are in sectors that pay lower than average wages.

“As we focus on ways to move our economy forward, it’s important to ensure that there is a strong foundation in place for New Hampshire’s families and the children who will be our future workforce,” said AnnMarie French, NHFPI’s Interim Executive Director. “In these times of relative prosperity and a strong economy, we should consider what long-term investments we can make that will further strengthen our economy and lead to a more prosperous future.”

Health and education speakers reviewed the overall landscape within each policy area, including funding mechanisms, and ways that health needs can impact educational success. Speakers discussed efforts to assist children impacted by the state’s opioid crisis in addressing a range of needs and the roles Medicaid and expanded Medicaid play in helping ensure access to health care. Panelists included: Lisa Bujno, MSN, APRN, Assistant Medical Director, Ammonoosuc Community Health Services, located in Littleton with five locations in the North Country; Lucy Hodder, Director of Health Law and Policy, University of New Hampshire School of Law/Institute for Health Policy and Practice; Brendan Minnihan, Superintendent, SAU 30, Laconia School District; and Evelyn Aissa, Executive Director, Reaching Higher NH.

Housing and transportation speakers addressed current efforts, opportunities, and challenges within each area, including efforts to boost the availability of housing that is affordable to all residents and to maintain a reliable transportation infrastructure in the state’s urban centers and rural areas. Panelists included: Dean Christon, Executive Director, NH Housing Finance Authority; Peter Stamnas, Director of Project Development, New Hampshire Department of Transportation; and Jennifer Czysz, AICP, Assistant Director, Nashua Regional Planning Commission.

Presentations also highlighted the progress being made in the areas of early childhood development and workforce development through higher education. Presenters included Jackie Cowell, Executive Director, Early Learning NH, and Charles Ansell, Chief Financial Officer, Community College System of New Hampshire.

NHFPI’s conference attracted nearly 150 attendees, including state policymakers, local officials, business and nonprofit leaders, policy experts, state and local government staff, as well as many others.

Lead sponsors for the event were The Rowley Agency and R.S. Audley, Inc. Additional sponsorship support was provided by the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, Child and Family Services of NH, New Futures, and Northeast Delta Dental.

Presentation slides from the event at available online at

The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute is an independent non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to exploring, developing, and promoting public policies that foster economic opportunity and prosperity for all New Hampshire residents, with an emphasis on low- and moderate-income families and individuals. Learn more at