GALA allows businesses to invest tax dollars in addressing workforce challenges…

Nathan Dickey, Keller Williams Realty and Robyn Masteller, Meredith Village Savings Bank, Wolfeboro visit the GALA Makerspace to see their companies’ tax credits at work.

If you’re a business owner, it will come as no surprise to learn that finding and hiring qualified workers was recently identified by the National Federation of Independent Businesses as the single most important business problem challenging the country right now. Solutions for workforce development will require collaboration and creativity to solve the job gap, and that’s where the GALA Makerspace comes into play. 

According to the Small Business Authority, the community of 2,000 makerspaces around the country, are uniquely positioned to help increase workforce development for a variety of reasons: they focus on new paths for vocational and technical education, generate new apprenticeship opportunities, build new job skills, and boost jobs that provide a pathway into the middle class.  And if that weren’t enough, they also fuel independent work and self-employment. 

The SBA believes that by empowering a stronger connection between the makerspace community and job creation, we will be one step closer to a workforce development solution. The GALA Makespace will provide such a solution through programs and activities that help close the workforce skills-gap, allowing for business growth, job creation, and regional economic development.

GALA’s recently updated strategic business plan identifies that our aging population, growing skills gap, and an outflow of the labor force to other states have all contributed to a workforce shortage in New Hampshire.  The traditional workforce, those aged 20 to 64, is projected to decline in NH between 2010 and 2040. Over this same time span the population over 65 is expected to double. It also recognized that the state is losing young workers at a high rate compared with other states.  Forty-eight percent of recent high school graduates migrate out of state to attend two-year or four-year colleges or career schools compared to a national average of 19 percent.  

These converging trends present a critical opportunity to leverage the human capital associated with our older residents while offering meaningful ways to age in community, and offer skill-building and credentialing opportunities in a creative and community-centered hub, to attract and retain young adults and families.

GALA envisions addressing these regional workforce development needs by hosting workforce training programs and classes at its makerspace property at 23 Bay Street, Wolfeboro. This training will help employees upskill for current or new jobs. For employers, these programs will help train current or potential workforce according to employers’ needs.

Josh Arnold, GALA’s Executive Director, says, ”In Carroll County, there is an unfulfilled need for a physical place to build skills, collaborate and connect over shared interests, and foster creative placemaking, resulting in better jobs, higher quality of life, and a stronger community.  In conversations with our local businesses we have already identified the need for customized training in the areas of manufacturing, landscaping, hospitality and retail customer service, computer skills, and soft skills. GALA could also offer satellite community college or continuing education courses.  Wolfeboro is in a part of NH with arguably the greatest commute to any given college within the Community College System of NH (CCSNH). This positions GALA as an attractive partner to CCSNH schools to offer both credit and non-credit bearing classes, or “boot camp” courses for credentialing, especially those that relate to the NH Sector Partnership Initiative.”

The first step however, is to renovate the 23 Bay St property into a functional makerspace, and a combination of grants and fundraising are helping this become a reality. GALA’s makerspace will combine community, education, and equipment that provide participants the opportunity, place, and peer collaboration to design and create projects that may otherwise not be possible with the resources available to someone working alone.  Members will have access to practical skills, training, specialized tools and equipment, and creative competencies that strengthen job creation and retention. The makerspace will also provide collaborative resources such as a “tool library” and “repair cafe” for learning, engaging with hobbies, or simply fixing or up-cycling things that may otherwise be destined for the landfill. 

Recently the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority (NH CDFA)  awarded GALA $275,000 in tax credits towards the development of GALA’s Carroll County Makerspace & Incubator.

The tax credit program is a win-win model that allows businesses to direct the tax dollars that they would normally pay the state (business profits tax, business enterprise tax or insurance premium tax) to rigorously vetted non profit development organizations for innovative projects that show a high degree of community support, build partnerships and leverage other funds. 

GALA’s makerspace was recognized as meeting all these qualifications and is well on its way to happening. The organization owns the building at 23 Bay St, Wolfeboro, outright with no mortgage, and state and federal agencies are substantially backing the project through additional grants. Design and phase one of the makerspace are projected to cost around $1 million, and currently, the project is in design-phase with Scott Simons Architects.

GALA’s tax credit award for $275,000 will go toward “bricks and mortar” for Phase 1 construction renovations, primarily focused on structural work, site work, fire and life safety, accessibility, and energy efficiency upgrades. Plans for the revitalized facility include shop and studio space for wood and metal working, fiber and fine arts, jewelry making, computer/technology/multimedia, co-working and meeting space, career development facilities, a commercial community kitchen, and small offices or studios for rent.

For businesses, tax credits offer a substantially bigger bang-for-buck than a charitable donation which typically only results in a modest federal tax deduction. The program gives a 75% state tax credit against a donation made to an approved project such as the Carroll County Community Makerspace & Incubator, and the contributing company may carry forward the credit for up to five years.

As an example, if a business invests $1,000 of its state business taxes in the Carroll County Community Makerspace & Incubator as a tax credit, it would receive $750 off its state business taxes. After federal tax benefits are accounted for, the contribution actually costs the company about 11% of the $1,000, or $110. So for a small investment, a company gets to leverage its legacy and strengthen its community in a way it couldn’t do with cash alone. Or to put it another way, $110 creates an immediate impact of $1,000, which in turn has a further multiplier effect as people’s livelihoods and lives are enhanced. 

Ninety-two percent of participating businesses surveyed by CDFA said they would recommend purchasing tax credits to other NH businesses, and said they invested a greater amount of money than if they’d used cash alone. 

CDFA makes the process easy for businesses. Payment is not due upfront, rather a pledge form can be completed to pay at a later date such as the end of a fiscal year or when taxes are due. Businesses should check with their CPA for their particular benefit. Businesses may choose when they want to be invoiced for the pledge and CDFA files all the paperwork with the DRA. Pledges are due no later than March 30, 2020 and the payment by June 30, 2020. They can be made anytime online at  nhcdfa.org/electronic-pledge.

The GALA  Makerspace was recently endorsed by Senator Jeb Bradley who shared that it is “a timely project and a worthy recipient of these business tax credits from the Community Development Finance Authority. The project has the potential to play a key role in workforce and economic development, career pathways, and will ultimately support families in local communities. I encourage NH businesses to enhance this project’s success and take advantage of the public-private partnership opportunity by buying these tax credits from GALA.”

Local businesses who have already invested in GALA’s makerspace through the tax credit program include: Keller Williams Realty, Meredith Village Savings Bank, PSI Moulded Plastics, Wolfeboro Family Dental, Bradley’s Hardware, Made on Earth, and Healing Frontiers.

Nathan Dickey, owner, Keller Williams Coastal and Lakes & Mountains Realty, who was the first to pledge for this fiscal year 2019, said, “As a small business owner, this is the type of project I want to see succeed because I know it will help make our community more attractive and accommodating for younger families to settle and for businesses to grow.”

Rick Wyman, President, Meredith Village Savings Bank said, “We are excited to have been able to contribute to GALA. Innovation and creativity are the hallmarks of a strong economy that is adaptable to change. We are pleased to be able to help further this mission by investing in our local community.”

To make a tax credit pledge and learn more about the makerspace project, businesses may contact GALA Executive Director, Josh Arnold at 603-569-1500 or josh@galacommunity.org

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