Legacy foundational jobs like farming, fishing, and forestry have long been the bedrock of Maine’s economy but now the state needs to generate foundational jobs in the 21st Century economy. In a nutshell, foundational jobs are those that create value or bring new money into the state by selling products that are purchased out of state – or out of the country. Manufacturing is the quintessential foundational sector.
Another important aspect of a foundational job is how it supports other jobs. For example, a lumber mill supplies many foundational jobs directly, but also supports jobs among suppliers, truckers, and professional services. Earnings are spent in the community and tax revenues support public services.
However, in recent decades foundational jobs have declined while the service and public sectors have grown. Service and public sector jobs are dependent on foundational sectors for their funding and do not bring new money into the state. That’s important because Maine has to generate out of state income to pay for all the things we buy from away–food, fuel, clothing, cars, medical equipment, and more.
Over time, a negative state balance of payments leads to less economic growth, fewer high-paying jobs, and less tax revenue for state and local governments. Put simply, it’s a recipe for economic stagnation and much of the explanation for Maine’s relatively poor economy.
Unfortunately, short-term agendas and isolated policy decisions have prevented a truly comprehensive approach to growing foundational jobs. Growing good-paying jobs that support families and communities should not be controversial, nor political. But issues like taxes, public spending, education, business regulation, and family costs for housing, energy, and healthcare consistently become isolated political debates, rather than viewed as pieces to solving Maine’s economic challenges.
As the infighting continues, Maine has become less competitive and ranked lower across many benchmarks for prosperity. New investments to create jobs are not coming to Maine. New workers are not moving here and our young people are moving away in search of opportunity.
Ultimately, only by working together will we create the foundational jobs we need to secure a brighter future for all of Maine. To stay informed and to help us enact this plan, sign up for our newsletter today and help us work towards a brighter economic future for Maine.