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BIA to honor Fred Kocher for 50-plus years of contributions to NH

BIA to honor Fred Kocher for 50-plus years of contributions to NH

Host of WMUR’s ‘NH Business’ to receive Lifetime Achievement Award

Fred Kocher, former television news journalist, lobbyist, college advisor and senior staff advisor to a U.S. senator, has woven a remarkable career into a lifetime of contributions to New Hampshire.

He founded Politics & Eggs – New Hampshire Presidential Primary Forum breakfast through Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics, served as president of the NH High Technology Council (now NH Tech Alliance), co-founded the New Hampshire Coalition for Business & Education, co-founded an international trade center at Pease International Tradeport that was later integrated into the state Department of Resources & Economic Development. He also served as president of AARP New Hampshire.

The Navy and Marine Corps veteran is not done giving back. He continues his 29-year run as producer and host of “NH Business,” which airs Sunday mornings on WMUR. He calls it “one of the best experiences of my life.”

“I’m focused like a laser beam on my NH Business show, focused on making that content the best it can be,” he said.

Kocher will receive the Business & Industry Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award at BIA’s 109th Annual Dinner and Awards Celebration, presented by Eversource, Wednesday, Oct. 26 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Manchester. Dr. Susan Huard, retired from the Community College System of New Hampshire, and attorney Dick Samuels of McLane Middleton will also receive Lifetime Achievement Awards. Waypoint will receive BIA’s New Hampshire Advantage Award. The celebration starts with a networking reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., followed by the dinner and awards ceremony.

BIA’s award adds to Kocher’s accolades, which include being named Business NH Magazine’s 2007 Business Leader of the Year and honorary degrees from Rivier University, Granite State College and Nashua Community College. He also served as an advisor to Granite State College, and was on the board of the former Daniel Webster College in Nashua.

Kocher started his journalism career at a television station in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended the Ohio State University. He came back to New Hampshire, where he had spent his early years, and joined WMUR in 1969 as a reporter, ending up as news director and anchor for the 6 and 11 p.m. news.

His career later included lobbying for Blue Cross Blue Shield in New Hampshire and Washington, and 12 years as a senior staff advisor for U.S. Sen. Warren Rudman, focused on federal agencies related to New Hampshire businesses. He went on to work in government issues for a Boston law firm, then started Kocher & Company Public Affairs, mostly helping small businesses do business with large companies primarily in the technology sector. He retired from that two years ago.

Kocher also co-founded the NH Forum On The Future and was a Concord city councilor, chairing its Downtown Revitalization Committee early in the makeover of Concord’s downtown.

With 50-plus years of professional experience, Kocher is bullish on New Hampshire, saying the focus should be on maintaining and growing what’s positive, which includes the state government’s frugality.

“New Hampshire government, agree or not, maintains the state’s fiscal health over years and decades,” he said. “It’s one of the state’s great strengths.”

But the state can’t be so frugal as to not make sound investments, he countered. The manufacturing sector, including technology and software, must be supported for growth, especially given supply chain issues, he said.

“The state also must help maintain and grow the tourism sector,” he added. “Those two are really the keys to the New Hampshire economy. We need to keep fueling those sectors whether with more workers or financial assistance to resolve some of the issues.”

He lists housing as issue number 1. He points to the state’s new $100 million InvestNH fund, offering praise, but calling it a “catchup program” for a state looking at years of work ahead.

“NH Housing says there’s a shortage of 20,000-plus units of workforce right now. Who’s going to build 20,000 units in a short time? No one,” he said, adding most apartments built in recent years are market rate. “For an increasing amount of the workforce it’s too much money. Affordable housing has to be built.”

The second biggest issue? Childcare.

“We have to have workable childcare centers, in term of existence and staff paid enough of a living wage to stay and not come and go, come and go,” he said.

Quality childcare is essential to provide schools with students ready to be educated, “and in turn allow our schools to supply businesses with workers ready to work. If we don’t solve our daycare problem the rest of our education system won’t work.”

Kocher attended a ribbon-cutting this summer for Mid-State Health Center’s Children’s Learning Center, which was created in large part by contributions from businesses in that area. Mid-State is helping staff the center and pay staff what they need, he said, adding it is a model for the state.

The state also faces a growing shortage of elementary and high school teachers.

“The issues have to be dealt with and it’s an obligation of the school system and businesses to solve it because both benefit from the solutions,” he said.

A lot of that work is happening around the state, he stressed. Kocher lives in Rochester, where Spaulding High School offers courses that prepare students interested in working with local companies like Safran Aerospace Composites and Albany International. Those companies accept high school students for internships and jobs. Many schools, he said, are meeting the need to better prepare students not just for college but to enter the workforce.

He points to WorkReadyNH, a 3-week, tuition-free professional development program of the Community College System of New Hampshire and cites the seamless transition from community colleges to four-year programs of the state university system.

“It’s made it easy for students to float from high school to community college to a four-year college,” he said. “That all came about as a result of a dialogue between high schools, colleges and businesses. That kind of collaboration is crucial.”

Industry and government collaboration is a staple of New Hampshire as a small state, he said.

“Many of us crisscross the state and meet each other and solve problems along the way in a way we couldn’t do in California, Texas or elsewhere,” he said. “I love this state and underline the word love. Yes, we have our own issues, but it’s great here.”

For a list of past winners of BIA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, visit https://bit.ly/BIAhonorees.

To purchase tickets for BIA’s Annual Dinner, visit https://bit.ly/BIAAnnualDinner. For sponsorship opportunities, email Lora McMahon.

Rick Fabrizio is director of communications for the BIA, New Hampshire's statewide chamber of commerce and leading business advocate.

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Media Contact : Rick Fabrizio, rfabrizio@biaofnh.com

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