Foundational jobs are the basis of a strong economy. They produce goods, create value, and/or bring money into Maine. They include manufacturing, farming, fishing, transportation, energy, construction, and more.
Foundational jobs are distinct from service industry and government jobs because they create or bring new wealth into Maine and pay for the service and public sectors. If everyone worked for the government, they’d have to be taxed 100% to pay themselves. However, in recent decades, Maine has lost thousands of foundational jobs, leading to a stagnant economy, demographic challenges, and a decrease in young families.
For several decades, manufacturing and other production jobs have moved to lower-cost states or been outsourced to other countries.
One key is that Maine has never had a long-term, strategic plan for how to address these dynamics, protect remaining jobs in these industries, and grow foundational jobs of the future, such as technology, medicine and advanced manufacturing.
Transitioning from one era of work to the next is not new. For example, Maine’s ice industry once employed 90,000 people. This industry was previously worth $660 million in today’s dollars. But the ice industry collapsed (refrigerators!) and workers needed to look to the next era of foundational work to support their families. Maine has faced the same challenge for decades with the loss of manufacturing, timber and other jobs – but has failed to make the transition to the future.
Because foundational jobs are the bedrock of a functioning economy, losing them has had widespread ramifications for Maine’s people and businesses. Maine’s cost of living has increased, its population is stagnant, and its workforce has been declining.
Meanwhile, the loss of good-paying jobs has led to a small, stagnant economy, even compared to other small states in the US. But this doesn’t have to be Maine’s future.
Foundational jobs are the most important keys to a more profitable economy and a brighter future for Maine overall. Fortunately, there are several steps Maine’s can take to refocus on protecting and growing foundational jobs. These steps include:
Most importantly, Maine needs a long-term and comprehensive strategic plan to make Maine more competitive, grow foundational jobs and make our state more prosperous for all.
Foundational jobs are essential to Maine’s future. Please sign up to our email newsletter to stay informed and help us work towards a brighter economic future for Maine.