Eagle Times: Congresswoman Kuster visits Claremont smokehouse
At first glance, it looked like a conversation between two friends.
North Country Smokehouse owner Mike Satzow sat behind his desk in his low-ceilinged Sullivan Street office, figurines of pigs and other barnyard animals decorating the desk’s surface. Sitting in a sturdy chair opposite Satzow, sat Congresswoman Annie Kuster, NH-02, listening intently to Satzow’s concerns as a businessman from the private sector.
At the heart of the easygoing discussion, though, were serious economic development issues, such as giving New England farmers and agricultural companies a voice in Congress amid a Midwestern bloc that typically dominates those concerns.
The flow of their conversation was natural, not stilted.
“I think New England for so long was just an afterthought,” Kuster said to Satzow.
“We have a collective voice,” Kuster said.
Now, she, along with Reps. Peter Welch, D-Vt., Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Joe Courtney, D-Conn., will highlight issues in Congress key to New England farmers and food producers.
The farm bill remains stalled. A congressional committee that endorsed the bill with a 35-11 vote ultimately did not receive the support it needed from Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio.
“There’s no excuse not to have a farm bill,” Satzow said.
“It’s outrageous,” she said.
Kuster is hopeful a new congressional session will break through Washington, D.C.’s political gridlock.
“We need bipartisan support to bring the farm bill forward,” Kuster said.
Their conversation later veered into another business area pertinent to Claremont’s past and future: Manufacturing and machinery. Kuster’s and Satzow’s exchange centered on encouraging the rebirth of precision manufacturing and machinery using computers and intellectual skills to produce quality, U.S. made industrial materials for export.
Kuster’s yesterday afternoon stop in Claremont followed her earlier stop in Lebanon at Hypertherm, a company that designs and manufactures advanced metal cutting products. Today, she is scheduled to travel east, to meet with Nashua Community College educational leaders and students.
In Keene, where Kuster visited earlier this week, a partnership between a precision manufacturing company and a college led to math and engineering training provided for the firm’s employees. Workers received the skills they needed to meet the company’s production needs. That spurred 46 employees over five years to continue their education, earning associate’s degrees. Kuster said these men and women had not ever considered attending college after high school.
“I’d like to see that type of program replicated here in the Claremont region for training and retraining on the precision and advanced machinery,” she said.
A tour followed their chat. Kuster donned a white hair net and long blue coat to walk alongside Satzow on a tour through the plant. The smell of smoked beef and pork pleasantly permeated the air. Employees of the company continued their work, the buzz of food production underway. One young man peeled off his blue gloves to shake Kuster’s hand as he was introduced by Satzow.
The local smokehouse’s team did not miss a beat, including kitchen worker Ryan Belisle, of Newport, who greeted Kuster as well.
Satzow also spoke proudly of Claremont’s industrial history and companies nearby aiding the city’s economic growth — the Common Man, Crown Point Cabinetry, Red River Computer Co., River Valley Community College, Timberpeg, and Whelen Manufacturing, for example.
Satzow weaved the thread of the day’s conversation into the ongoing search for a new president of the college. Links between area employers and the college are hoped to bring training and jobs for students. There is agreement among industry and academia of the need for well-trained employees, particularly those with math skills.
Kuster said she is very optimistic about the recovery from the nation’s economic difficulties. The western part of New Hampshire is key to this ongoing economic force. She referred to this region as “Precision Valley.”
“People here first of all are very capable, and they have a history of technology and manufacturing,” she said.