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We have to face some hard truths about Maine’s economy. We are struggling to shake off the effects of the recession. Others are passing us by when it comes to recovery, but Maine does have a great thing going for it when it comes to possibilities for job creation.
I have the honor of co-chairing the Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future. This bipartisan panel has done some really amazing work to spur job creation and move our economy forward.
Just last week, the Legislature overwhelmingly passed a set of bond investments created by our committee, which are targeted to help small businesses grow, and to boost high tech innovation.
Many of these are long overdue investments that support the little guy: small but promising businesses from around the state, as well as our farmers, foresters, and fishermen.
Maine needs these investments now to address our lagging job creation. For the last few years, we have neglected our small businesses and our innovation economy.
At the same time, we’ve only recovered about half the jobs we lost in the recession. New England as a whole, meanwhile, has recovered virtually all of them.
In putting together this bond plan, our workforce committee started with the belief that Mainers are some of the best workers on the planet. We listened to the public and asked questions. How can we best help our workers thrive in today’s global economy? How can we best help Maine’s small businesses grow and create jobs?
The proposal reflects the very best of the ideas we heard. More importantly, it reflects Maine’s true, powerful potential — the economic leader Maine can become if we put our minds to it. All told, the proposal would invest $40 million in key engines of economic growth.
The biggest portion would recapitalize financing programs that help promising small business access capital. These programs have proven track records of helping Maine companies to achieve rapid growth and job creation.
Here’s just one of many examples we heard about. Artel, in Westbrook, told us how it used these flexible loan programs to make each of its big jumps in its development. They started out with two guys who each had borrowed one-thousand dollars from family members. Today, they make highly sophisticated instruments used by crime labs looking at DNA, hospitals evaluating patient tests and pharmaceutical firms doing quality control. The company now has an international presence and more than 60 employees.
The bond proposal also builds on areas where Maine already enjoys competitive advantages.
One part would improve the laboratory at the Cooperative Extension, helping them better assist farmers and foresters to combat disease and insect threats. The other elements would invest in key areas on a competitive basis. They aim to boost the state’s marine economy, to develop a world-class biometric research facility for advanced cancer treatments and related research, to increase biotech workforce training, and to advance cutting edge tissue regeneration research to improve human health.
This proposal is a great example of bipartisan cooperation that shows how much we can do when we come together.
We’re looking forward to seeing Governor LePage sign it and send it to voters for their approval. Even more than that, we’re looking forward to seeing Maine’s small businesses prosper and more Maine workers in good-paying 21st century jobs.