BIDDEFORD – Greg Kesich’s Aug. 10 column, “Even Maine’s good economic news is bad this summer,” paints an accurate picture of the challenges facing the U.S. and Maine economies.

Kesich says, “I have never created a job, but I know that to do so you have to be forward-thinking and optimistic.”

Job creation does require forward-thinking, but it is more important to be realistic, to accurately see where you are, than to be optimistic.

We are fortunate that a realistic appraisal of economic trends suggests that Maine can have a bright economic future.

Here is why. I believe Mr. Kesich rightly identifies two forces that will control how Maine and other states fare economically in the coming years: technological innovation and globalization. Despite the admittedly tough times right now, Maine has a silver lining and golden opportunity on both counts.

In terms of globalization, while jobs have been “outsourced” to lower-wage countries over the last few decades, we are beginning to see a reversal of that trend. Jobs flowed to countries like China, India and Vietnam — despite the fact that their workers were less productive — because their wages were so low it made the overall cost of production lower.

Today, the value of the U.S. dollar and increased competition within those countries has erased much of that low-wage advantage. Companies like GM and GE that took the lead in outsourcing to low wage countries are now taking the lead in “insourcing” — bringing jobs back to the U.S.

Maine’s golden opportunity comes on the technological innovation front. Advances in telecommunications are making Internet networks orders of magnitude faster, more reliable and cheaper.

These new high-speed networks make business methods and organizations possible today that would not have been feasible even a few years ago.

That means Mainers are now able to sell their services to a much wider, even global market — and that people and companies who would not even have considered locating in Maine a few years ago, could find it advantageous to do so today. Here are three examples.

First, cloud computing. Companies no longer need to have their computing resources or IT departments in house. With cloud computing, smart companies in Boston or New York can save money by locating their servers and IT department jobs at a robust data center in Houlton or Millinocket.

As long as the network between Boston, New York and Maine is fast, cheap and reliable, the work can take place here. Essentially, skilled service jobs can be exported via the network.

Second, keeping and attracting professionals. With a high-speed Internet network, doctors, engineers, investment bankers and other professionals will no longer have to live in major urban areas to be connected effortlessly and instantaneously to the global marketplace. Advances in telemedicine, video conferencing and other high-bandwidth applications mean you can practice anywhere there is a true network.

Frequently, residents of Boston and New York tell me how they wish they could move (or return) to Maine because of our state’s incredible natural beauty, quality of life and vibrant small towns. With the network, they can do just that — while dramatically reducing their cost of living.

Third, growing our own entrepreneurial industries. Open access to new high-speed networks means hundreds of new ways entrepreneurs in Portland, Machias, Fort Kent or Rumford can create new businesses and jobs.

For example, a company called Eleutian, founded in rural Powell, Wyo., (pop. 5,524) uses high-speed network access to teach English to students around the world by high-end video link.

Today, the company is the largest employer in the region with more than 300 teachers working at nine different teaching centers.

There is no reason we couldn’t do that, or 20 similar businesses, here in Maine. (What is your idea and where is your business plan?)

The greatest traditional barrier to Maine’s economic development has been distance. New technology, in the form of high-speed networks, is virtually eliminating this disadvantage.

There is good money to be made and good jobs to be created selling goods and services to the rest of the world. The speed and extent to which Maine takes advantage of this opportunity will depend on our ability to focus on the silver lining and not the cloud.

Let’s tap into our Yankee ingenuity, innovate our businesses and create opportunity for Maine people and communities.

– Special to the Press Herald