By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — It was only 22 years ago that Corfin Industries — a growing local aerospace and defense contractor — opened for business with just a handful of employees.
Now, the Raymond Avenue company is up to 90 employees and doing business around the world, producing electronic components for everything from high-powered missiles to medical devices.
Expanding the federal government’s research and development tax credit program will help the company continue to prosper, according to Donald Tyler, Corfin’s managing director.
“That’s something we are going to take advantage of,” he said.
Tyler and other Corfin executives met with Congresswoman Annie Kuster, D-N.H., yesterday to see how they could work together to help make that happen.
“The R&D tax credit, for me, is trying to give American companies an innovative advantage to try and stay on the cutting edge,” Kuster said.
Kuster, who’s been visiting businesses across the state as part of her “Congress at Your Company” initiative, donned a light blue lab coat and toured the plant.
She touted the “Make it in America plan,” which promotes the adoption of a national manufacturing strategy and the export of U.S. goods.
The congresswoman told Tyler she supports efforts to make the research and tax credit permanent. She has backed a bill that would increase the tax credit from 14 to 17 percent.
Kuster emphasized the need to bolster the economy and ensure that New Hampshire companies have enough skilled workers to help high-technology firms such as Corfin continue to advance.
“The No. 1 focus in our offices as a member of Congress is jobs,” Kuster told Tyler. “Are you able to find employees that have the skillset you need?”
Tyler said it’s tough for his company to find workers who have the highly specialized skills his firm requires. That includes employees with a strong knowledge of robotics, metallurgy and electronics.
“It’s a little difficult to find folks well suited to what we are doing,” he said.
Kuster said she has introduced a bill in Congress that offers tax incentives to businesses that join with community colleges and other educational institutions to improve the workforce.
“It’s not your grandfather’s factory floor (anymore),” she said.
Kuster said although the Granite State has a highly trained workforce, more of these employees are needed if New Hampshire companies are to remain competitive.
“If a company doesn’t keep up with R&D, you are going to lose your spot,” she said.
But it’s tough for the state’s students to acquire these skills when New Hampshire leads the nation in college loan debt, Kuster said.
Promoting research and development in New Hampshire is also a priority for other state leaders, including U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.
Jeff Grappone, her spokesman, said Ayotte has worked to renew the Small Business Innovation Research grant program. The program’s goal is to increase the participation of small defense and technology companies in federally funded research, he said.
“She wants to make sure that our tax code drives job creation, and she’ll be listening carefully to New Hampshire business owners to see how she can continue to help them innovate and grow,” Grappone said.