All jobs are useful, but some are foundational. Public sector jobs are dependent upon private sector jobs that generate tax revenue. Service sector jobs are also dependent on jobs in manufacturing, construction, transportation, energy, farming, fishing, and forestry. These latter jobs are foundational because they support everything else.
Foundational jobs make new things, add unique value, or bring new, outside money into Maine. These are jobs that pay higher wages, enabling workers to feed and clothe their families, build homes, buy cars, and pay for health care. They also generate the personal income taxes that support public schools, police, fire, and other local, county, state, and federal services.
Foundational jobs are critical to Maine’s financial survival, but the state has lost more than 20,000 of them in the last several years.
There is no plan to replace them. Making matters worse, Mainers are in direct competition with other states and countries that have been more successful creating economic environments where investment creates and replaces foundational jobs.
The truth is that the foundational jobs of the future will be different than those of the past. Traditional industries must innovate and evolve to survive, which some are doing successfully. Others will not make the transition, which means Maine must find ways to attract interest and investment from new industries creating jobs of the future.
Every day our state economy is getting left behind by competing economies structured to focus on 21st Century growth opportunities. These jobs are being created by advancement in technologies like virtual reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence, space exploration, self-driving cars, drones, alternative energies, advanced health care, DNA research, eliminating poverty, eradicating malaria, preventing epidemics, and revolutionizing education. Thousands of Mainers – especially young people educated in our schools – must leave every year to go where they have an opportunity to do meaningful work and prosper.
MIT and Harvard are just an hour south of the Maine border. They generate innovations and incubate companies that employ hundreds of thousands of people – second only to the technological epicenter of Silicon Valley. Yet Maine has no plan to connect with innovation coming out of Cambridge and no comprehensive strategy to attract new companies, compete successfully with other states, bring investment into the state, and prepare children with the skills they’ll need in the future.
We need a plan.