Kuster visits MilliporeSigma in Jaffrey, discusses state workforce shortages
Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) met with one of Jaffrey’s largest employers Tuesday, to discuss struggles with workforce recruitment and water source access.
MilliporeSigma in Jaffrey manufactures filtration devices used in the pharmaceutical industry, and employs about 950 people – and is growing.
David Poggi, site head of operations at MilliporeSigma, told Kuster the company expects to have over 1,000 employees by the end of the year. And if the company continues to grow at its current rate, it could double in size in the next ten years, Poggi said.
Kuster discussed ways to solve a problem currently plaguing large companies across the state – attracting qualified workers.
“You’re not the only ones looking to grow,” she said. “And you’re competing with a 2.5 percent unemployment rate.”
Because competition is stiff for workers, Kuster said she’s spoken to many companies that have had to get creative when it comes to accommodating workers. With a two-income household now the norm, companies may be able to attract more workers by catering to those with families, she said.
“We brought women into the workforce, but we didn’t make any changes,” Kuster said, speaking of the typical structure of the workweek. She said the greater flexibility companies are able to offer in their work hours, the more people they are likely to attract.
Kuster also noted an ongoing problem for employers is the state’s opioid addiction problems. There are now employers who are bringing in licensed drug and alcohol counselors one or two days a week to help connect employees with treatment resources – not only for themselves but for those with children or other family members struggling with addiction.
Companies also need to consider what benefits most appeal to the upcoming generation of young college graduates. New Hampshire graduates are coming out of school with more debt than anywhere else in the country, Kuster said, and as many businesses offer tuition reimbursement – including MilliporeSigma – perhaps debt relief is also an option for those who come into the workforce with a degree already.
“Employers need to generationally meet people where they are,” Kuster said.
Poggi said MilliporeSigma’s general workforce is typically drawn from an area of about 20 miles around the company, and it is continually seeking ways to expand that circle.
“We have a declining population and an aging population in the state,” Poggi said. “That is our biggest challenge.”
To attract new workers, MilliporeSigma has partnered with colleges such as University of New Hampshire and Worcester Polytechnic Institute and offers robust internship programs as a way to try to attract young workers and keep them in the state, Poggi said, but with the Jaffrey facility growing at a rate of 11 percent annually, workers are constantly in demand.
“We haven’t found the right combination to make that panacea yet, but we’re always exploring new avenues,” Poggi said.
MilliporeSigma is also anticipating expanding its facilities in the next year and will need to increase its water usage significantly.
Jaffrey is currently in negotiations with the town of Peterborough to collaborate on the purchase of a three-well site in Sharon and Jaffrey. Peterborough voters approved a warrant article in May to purchase the site and build a water treatment plant on the site, and Jaffrey anticipates putting forth a warrant article in 2020 to pay for a portion of the work. Both towns would co-own the water source.
Peterborough approved an $8.26 million article for the purchase, engineering and construction of a new water system at the site, with the anticipation that Peterborough will bond about half of the cost, with the remainder coming from Jaffrey and federal or state grants.
Poggi said MilliporeSigma has been in close contact with the town of Jaffrey about its water needs and is hopeful about the acquisition of the new well site.
“It’s a good collaboration between municipalities and business,” Poggi said.
In addition to her tour at Millipore, Kuster also met with Monadnock Community Hospital leadership to discuss efforts to improve rural health care delivery as part of her statewide listening tour at rural hospitals.
“Monadnock Community Hospital plays an essential role in providing care to the surrounding communities, and we had a productive conversation about the challenges they face in the region including an increasing need for substance misuse treatment and workforce shortages,” Kuster said in a press release issued by MCH Tuesday.
"Monadnock Community Hospital was honored by Congresswoman Kuster's visit today,” Laura Gingras, vice president of philanthropy and community relations said in the press release. “We appreciated hearing about opportunities for Federal support in the areas of workforce, substance misuse, and transportation.”