NEWS AND OBSERVATIONS
ABOUT MAINE'S ECONOMY
Bring up Maine’s economic challenges and you will be met – inevitably – with two suggestions: cut taxes and raise taxes. But neither approach is a comprehensive economic strategy and both have political and social consequences. First, let’s look at calls to cut taxes. It is certainly true that having some of the highest […]
Understandably, Maine companies organize themselves by industry group—oil dealers, truckers, foresters, manufacturers, restaurants, and so forth. There are lots of good reasons to work together to address common issues and that approach works on a number of fronts. Currently quite a few sectors—aquaculture, forestry, manufacturing, and tourism to name a few—are working hard to promote their members, expand their opportunities, and increase foundational jobs for working people.
For years Maine’s economy was based on natural resources—farming, fishing, forestry—and the derivative businesses like paper-making. In recent years the state has lost over 20,000 quality foundational jobs. AFM has said it is unlikely those jobs are coming back. For example, the internet dramatically reduced the demand for paper, the paper mills closed, and operations were moved elsewhere.
For Maine to prosper, we need to recognize that investing in businesses IS investing in people. Business is just the way people organize to get things done—to do things for people. The food we eat is produced, processed, and delivered by businesses. The cars we drive are made, delivered, sold, and maintained by businesses. The fuel that heats our homes is obtained, processed, and delivered by businesses. And all of those businesses are really people—enabled by the tools they need to do their work.
When we talk about the need to grow “foundational jobs” in Maine, we sometimes get this comment: “those jobs are gone and never coming back.” Although we do regard many of our legacy industries as providing foundational jobs, it’s just as important to understand what the foundational jobs of the future can be for Maine.
We’ve been hearing a lot of good news lately about low unemployment in Maine – 29 months worth of good news, to be exact. That’s the number of consecutive months in which Maine’s jobless rate has been below 4%, which also happens to be the longest streak on record. In fact, Maine’s April 2018 unemployment rate of 2.7% is lower than this time last year, lower than New England’s rate of 3.6% and lower than the national unemployment rate of 3.9%. So what’s the problem with this good news?
Facing Maine’s economic challenges is going to take real engagement and involvement by us all. We can’t leave it to the politicians in Augusta – who operate in a system that rarely looks beyond the next election. We can’t leave it to the special interests – who are simply vying for their own agendas and, usually, spinning the facts. It can’t just be business, or labor, or environmentalists. We’re all in this together. But, first, we all have to agree that Maine’s economy is struggling, our prospects for turning this around are not bright, and we have no plan to rebuild our job base for the future.
The Alliance for Maine is a non-partisan, community-based effort to educate Mainers about our economic challenges and the need for a plan to repair and grow our economy. When we say, “non-partisan, community-based,” we mean it. We are truly trying to educate Mainers about our economic challenges. We are pushing for a solution that may sound easy – develop a plan. It is essential if Maine is going to take control of its economic future.