Manufacturing, construction, forestry, farming and fishing are all great examples of foundational jobs. These companies start with raw, natural materials. From there, they use knowledge, tools, technology and skilled labor to make something useful and valuable.
Jobs that create value are what generates economic growth, individual income and collective prosperity.
One question we hear is, “What role can Maine’s legacy industries have in a modern and technologically-advanced economy?” The answer is, A LOT.
People always need shelter, food, clothing, energy, tools and other basics. These basic needs won’t change.
How we work to meet these needs, however, has and will change dramatically. Jobs in these sectors look much different today than they did 50 – or even 20 – years ago.
But a danger exists – if Maine doesn’t keep pace with changes, it will lose its historic foothold in these industries and become less competitive.
Although many Maine companies are on the cutting edge of new production methods, the fact is our state is playing catch-up and falling behind. We need to educate and train our workers to have modern, in-demand skills. We need to upgrade our virtual and physical infrastructure to improve our ability to get things done. Our costs and regulation of business need to be changed to encourage growth and investment.
Maine is not an economic island – we’re in a global competition.
Most of all, Maine needs a plan to get from the economy of the past to the economy of the future. We need a plan that builds on our strengths, like our natural resources, to create more foundational jobs for Mainers. We must be clear about where we want to go, think big, and then take concrete steps to get there.
In one of AFM’s video series, we sat down with Elisabeth Reynolds from MIT’s Industrial Performance Center to talk about the future of jobs, skills, industries and the opportunities for Maine. Ms. Reynolds discussed what it will take for states to be competitive – regionally and globally.
These conversations can be viewed at this link.
(Note: Since these were filmed, Reynolds was appointed Special Assistant to President Biden for Manufacturing and Economic Development at the National Economic Council.)