Mike Michaud released his economic plan on Wednesday. Titled “Maine Made,” the 33-page document is a plan to capitalize on Maine’s competitive advantages, including our workforce, small businesses, farms and fisheries, tourism, energy and community.

The plan was billed as achievable and detailed. And to Michaud’s considerable credit, it is both of those things, striking a marked contrast to LePage’s quixotic spirit quest to lure the likes of Boeing to Maine and Cutler’s similarly themed but vague policy document.

Michaud’s plan builds on Maine’s existing strengths and seeks to grow prosperity from the inside out. The plan places a premium on practical and attainable policy goals, generally avoiding uniquely bold or transformative new ideas. That’s in keeping with the candidate himself, known more for his understated hard work and down-to-earth demeanor than his flash.

The plan’s biggest but perhaps least noticed strength is its combination of programmatic elements with considerable appeal to Michaud’s base – including labor, the environmental organizations and progressive groups – with policies attractive to Maine’s business community.

To that end, the centerpiece of Michaud’s plan is a 10-year, $100 million infrastructure investment program he calls the “Compact With Small Businesses.” The compact would provide businesses with a decade of predictable and coherent investments in transportation, energy efficiency, broadband, research and development, and uniquely promising micro-businesses.

That kind of long-term approach, often difficult to accomplish within government, is critical to creating the kind of assets and investments attractive to the businesses community and around which companies can plan.

Similarly, by calling for universal pre-K and proposing a free sophomore year of college, the plan embraces the Maine State Chamber of Commerce’s early childhood education priorities and creatively addresses the critical need to graduate higher-skilled, more educated Maine workers.

Michaud also lays out a thoughtful and ambitious program to increase the production, processing and consumption of the food derived from Maine’s farms and fisheries through a variety of initiatives, with the ultimate goal of turning Maine into the region’s breadbasket.

By attaching real dollar values to each of these programs, Michaud courageously set forth his economic priorities and advanced a plan that allows the candidates and voters to engage his ideas.

Yet despite its considerable strengths, the plan also includes some missed opportunities.

For example, the plan calls for creating the Maine Domestic Trade Center, an economic development entity modeled on the state’s successful Maine International Trade Center.

The DTC would assist local businesses with growth into regional and national markets, filling a void in our current economic development programming. But one wonders why another government entity is needed to address this issue when the Department of Economic and Community Development already exists.

Rather than creating more government, this was a perfect opportunity for Michaud to cast off his more traditional Democratic demons and talk about transforming government, modernizing and optimizing its delivery of services, and better aligning its activities to meet business needs.

Similarly, Maine’s economy is facing demographic winter as a result of our aging population and stagnant population growth. Our economic future is largely tied to our ability to attract thousands of new working-age residents to Maine every year. While Michaud set out a clear vision for creating thousands of new jobs, he omitted an essential plan for attracting the workers to fill them.

On the issue of energy, Michaud’s plan prioritizes renewables, energy efficiency and weatherization. Each of these has an important role to play in Maine’s energy future and belong in any comprehensive energy plan. But natural gas is unquestionably Maine’s most immediate energy challenge and opportunity.

Over the last few months, Maine paper mills have halted production because of price spikes associated with constrained natural gas supplies. Persistently high natural gas costs threaten the erosion of Maine’s commercial and industrial base, which in turn puts Maine jobs at risk.

While Michaud gives a nod to the New England governors’ proposed ratepayer-funded pipeline expansion, he misses an opportunity to prioritize Maine’s access to this abundant domestic energy source. Put another way, if Michaud is serious about job preservation and creation, increasing Maine’s competiveness and lowering energy costs, then increased pipeline capacity into the region, coupled with expanded access for local homes, businesses and industries, must top his energy agenda.

Finally, while Michaud gets credit for placing a price tag on each line item in his plan, he omits a necessary discussion about where the money will come from. Simply asserting, as he did on Wednesday, that the plan is affordable and the legislature can easily find $36 million is not only insufficient, it’s contradicted by the legislature’s experience this session.

Despite these shortcomings, Michaud unquestionably advanced the most comprehensive, detailed and achievable economic policy to date, setting the bar by which other plans will be judged.

Michael Cuzzi is a former campaign aide to President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and former U.S. Rep. Tom Allen. He manages the Portland office for VOX Global, a strategic communications and public affairs firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @CuzziMJ