Havenstein Stumps in Valley

  • At Durgin & Crowell Lumber in Springfield, N.H.. co-owner Ben Crowell leads Republican candidate for Governor Walt Havenstein, his Press Secretary Henry Goodwin, and volunteer Bill Molloy through the mill. Havenstein toured the building on May, 21, 2014.<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    At Durgin & Crowell Lumber in Springfield, N.H.. co-owner Ben Crowell leads Republican candidate for Governor Walt Havenstein, his Press Secretary Henry Goodwin, and volunteer Bill Molloy through the mill. Havenstein toured the building on May, 21, 2014.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Republican candidate for Governor Walt Havenstein in Springfield N.H. on May, 21, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Republican candidate for Governor Walt Havenstein in Springfield N.H. on May, 21, 2014.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • At Durgin & Crowell Lumber in Springfield, N.H.. co-owner Ben Crowell leads Republican candidate for Governor Walt Havenstein, his Press Secretary Henry Goodwin, and volunteer Bill Molloy through the mill. Havenstein toured the building on May, 21, 2014.<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • Republican candidate for Governor Walt Havenstein in Springfield N.H. on May, 21, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Springfield, N.H. — Republican gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein visited two Upper Valley employers Wednesday as part of a “factory floor and entrepreneurs” campaign swing in which he raised concerns about business costs and regulation.

But in an interview during his stop in Springfield, Havenstein reiterated that he opposed efforts to raise the state’s $7.25 per hour minimum wage. “I think it inhibits entry-level job growth,” he said. “It can be a real threat to very small businesses.”

Havenstein — a former chief executive officer of BAE Systems, a 4,000-employee defense systems company in southern New Hampshire and SAIC, a Fortune 250 science, engineering and technology company — said that raising the wage of a company’s most entry-level employee would require adjustments throughout a company’s salary scale.

Havenstein said small businesses don’t have the margins to raise wages without passing the cost on to their consumers.

A minimum wage is “not designed to be their salary forever. As they gain skills and experience, they move up,” said Havenstein, who spent 28 years in the Marine Corps and later earned $1 million a year as CEO at SAIC.

Havenstein, an Alton, N.H., resident, spoke to the Valley News as he toured the 90-employee Durgin and Crowell Lumber Company in Springfield.

The company starts new employees with basic skills at a minimum of $9.50 per hour, said co-owner Peter B. Crowell, in an interview following Havenstein’s visit.

Donning a yellow hard hat, Havenstein followed co-owner Ben Crowell, Peter’s brother, past stacks of eastern white pine logs and into the bustling sawmill.

“This is pretty cool, isn’t it?” Havenstein said as he inhaled the pine-scented air. “Don’t you love the smell?”

Havenstein also sat down with Crowell and Compliance Coordinator Malcolm Milne in the company’s conference room.

Milne asked Havenstein, “Why do you want to be governor?”

Havenstein responded that he hopes to spur economic growth and create jobs. He said the region seems to have lost its competitive “edge.”

Milne said electricity prices are a serious issue for the company, which was founded in 1976. He said Durgin and Crowell spends $1 million per year to run the plant. Heating fuel for the company’s kilns are another concern, said Milne. While the company burns some sawdust, it also relies somewhat on propane, he said.

High propane prices this past winter — $3.77 per gallon in February — were a “significant hit for us,” said Milne. “I’m always amazed how expensive everything is.” He said he felt that the company’s efforts to increase efficiency had not reduced costs, but had helped to keep them from rising as much as they otherwise might have.

Havenstein asked the businessmen how changes in health insurance might be affecting the company.

Milne said at this point the company had not seen rates change, but he’s “worried about what’s going to happen.”

While Republicans have sought to make health care a campaign issue this year, Democrats have called for raising the minimum wage (New Hampshire’s is tied to the federal level) as part of their political strategy.

Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan supported a legislative effort this session to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 in 2015 and then to $9.00 in 2016, and while it passed the House in March, it was defeated in the Senate earlier this month.

While Havenstein said the minimum-wage mainly affected entry-level jobs, state Rep. Andrew White, D-Lebanon, the chairman of the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee, said in a phone interview Wednesday that 48,000 New Hampshire residents would be directly affected should the state increase the minimum wage.

White said there’s a misunderstanding about who earns a minimum wage in New Hampshire; 72 percent are over the age of 20 and 32 percent work full-time jobs, he said. Most work for large corporations, not small businesses, White added.

After his stop in Springfield, Havenstein traveled to Woodbrowser in Grantham, an eight-person firm offering an online marketplace for lumber products. The tour is scheduled to continue for several weeks.

Havenstein will face Andrew Hemingway, a Republican activist from the Grafton County town of Bristol, in the Republican primary.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.