Is economic growth in Maine a catch-22?

You don’t have to look hard to find indicators Maine’s economy isn’t the best. The economy is not likely to improve before our next governor takes office either. Jobs, jobs, jobs is bound to the mantra for many candidates. Pine Tree Politics has examined Maine’s current economy. Comparing Maine to Virginia, PTP talks about how Maine’s next governor can make the state more business friendly.

from Pine Tree Politics:

Yes, Maine is not and never will be (nor should it) Virginia – you won’t find subways or built up metropolitan areas in Maine, and that is actually a good thing. But most of what states are ranked on happens to be fair to compare across boundaries – things like taxes, education of the workforce, economic health, technological penetration, regulation, venture capital, etc. In these areas, places like Virginia beat the pants off places like Maine, and as a resident I can see why, and how.

I do not envy whoever occupies the Blaine House next. They have a mountain to conquer when it comes to Maine’s economy. Here’s my view of Maine’s economy. Someone gives you box of parts and says, “Well there’s parts to a couple B-17s, a Cessna, and I think there’s an old DC-10 in there too. Now make me a BMW…And you can’t look at any pictures or diagrams…And you can only use this Philips-head screwdriver.” My assessment is probably too harsh. I’m no economist, but as a layperson that’s how creating economic growth in Maine looks. It isn’t impossible, but damn, it isn’t easy.

Maine’s economy still functions, for the most part, on a dwindling manufacturing and farming basis, with a healthy chunk fed by tourism as well. Tourism is a fickle industry. Bad weather, the economic conditions of other areas, and other factors make tourism an unreliable economic sector. Yes, Maine is a great tourist destination and tourism is an integral piece to the economy, I wont deny that. But it wont keep Maine’s college grads in-state or get those from other states to move in.

Manufacturing has been fading in this nation for a long time now. Many northern states, including northern New Hampshire, Northern Vermont, Upstate New York, and the Midwest car country, have felt the sting of cheap labor and production costs overseas. Why pay an American work $40,000 a year, plus benefits, pensions, etc. when a Chinese or Mexican laborer will work for next to nothing without extras. Not to mention the Chinese will clear cut just about any wood, making their wood products far cheaper than what we produce here in Maine. Yet Maine is still stuck on a manufacturing economy and our workforce largely reflects that.

Now, lowering the tax burden are reworking regulations key to attracting more businesses and diversifying the economy. With many other states already doing this, it is essential that Maine follow suit(guess we forgot about “DIRIGO” on that front). Personally, the method you mentioned that I find most important is education. An investment in education provide two economic benefits. First, it shows business that a state is willing and able to train a quality workforce with diverse skills and equips Maine students to fill those jobs, helping to prevent more devastating brain drain. Second, how a state invests in education, ie. charter schools or creative use of technology, entice the 21st century businesses that Maine so desperately needs. It is not enough to just throw more money into education, businesses want to see efficient spending, and so should Mainers.

Not to mention improving connections between K-12 and our community college and university systems. The seeds of Maine’s economic improvement can be sown with an innovative, progressive(by which I don’t leftist), and 21st century education. Just my two cents. Did I mention I’m no economist?

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