Publisher's Note: Tech: Not just for geeks
By Jeff Rapsis
This week’s cover story highlights the starring role of high tech in the local economic pageant. That’s been the case in this area ever since the mid-20th century, when business leaders banded together following widespread mill closures to lay the groundwork for a more diversified economy.
Good for techies, right? Well, yes, but actually good for everyone, including those of us who actually did major in English. And I’m proof of that.
How? Because, armed with only my lowly liberal arts degree, I was able to achieve and maintain gainful employment at one of the state’s largest high-tech companies.
For four years, I was employed as a Web content editor and then as a corporate communications officer for PC Connection, Inc., the New Hampshire-based computer reseller.
Working in the company’s sprawling Merrimack headquarters campus, I didn’t “pick code,” as some programmer colleagues described their work. But I did do a lot of “wordsmithing” for all kinds of stuff. It was a good place to work and I enjoyed my time there.
And that job would not have existed if the founders, Patricia Gallup and David Hall, hadn’t tried the crazy idea of selling personal computers by mail from the tiny town of Marlow, N.H. It was 1982, and no one had ever done such a thing.
But it worked, and pretty soon the fledgling company was growing like a weed. Today it ranks as one of the state’s largest firms, with annual sales last year of $1.8 billion and employing more than 1,400 people in Merrimack, Keene, Portsmouth, and offices elsewhere in the nation.
There’s a lesson in there: though not every fledgling company will prosper, all it takes is a few that do to make a big difference in the economy. So to ensure we find those few, we must maintain an environment where a great many small ventures are encouraged.
How is that done? For one thing, we need to do a better job at creating the infrastructure that allows entrepreneurs some room to refine their ideas and build their business models. True, New Hampshire isn’t about to take a “big government” approach to this or any issue. But state and local government, in partnership with business development officials and private investors, have more than enough resources at their disposal to help foster what could be the next big thing. Let’s see more incubators, more networking events, and more business-friendly programs to make entrepreneurs feel welcome. And with today’s rapidly changing financial situation, it’s especially important that local banks be open to making capital available now to fuel the next period of growth.
And here’s a twist that might surprise you. Though PC Connection is a high technology company, it’s essentially a sales and marketing operation. Most of its employees aren’t techies with pocket-protectors, but sales and support staffers whose job is to match buyers with the latest tech equipment in an extremely competitive marketplace.
It’s not easy work, but it’s done by people who don’t as a rule wear pocket-protectors. Some of them, I understand, are English majors, doing rather well working their niche. No matter what your background, the high-tech economy holds opportunities for you.