AUGUSTA — The Maine Economic Growth Council’s recently released “Measures of Growth in Focus 2014,” the 20th annual edition, highlights 27 indicators that collectively measure the performance of Maine’s economy.

I have had the privilege of serving as a co-chair of this council for the last six years and am very pleased with the long-term perspective and objective data this report provides for the people of Maine. Our vision is for “a high quality of life for all Maine people.” We believe that achieving this vision requires a vibrant and sustainable economy supported by vital communities and a healthy environment.

We don’t add new measures to our report easily, but new this year is an indicator on workforce, which tracks the size of Maine’s workforce since 1990 and looks forward to 2020.

The council wishes to call particular importance to the issues surrounding Maine’s workforce and its importance to Maine’s employers – and, indeed, our economic future.

The premise is a fundamental one: If Maine’s economy is to grow, we need to ensure there are workers with the diverse skills and talents needed to meet the current and future needs of Maine businesses.

The data shows that Maine’s workforce has grown in recent decades, but much of the growth has been driven by baby boomers reaching their peak years of labor force participation. We know that many boomers are now past that age and will be moving into retirement in the years ahead.

We are facing a major change in our workforce, as about 200,000 Maine workers will reach the traditional retirement age of 65 in the near future. If current trends continue, Maine stands to lose about 20,000 workers by 2020, putting Maine employers in the difficult position of not finding qualified workers to grow with.

We need to act now if we are to grow our workforce and our economy. The good news is there are measures we can take.

We can grow Maine’s workforce by increasing the rate of workforce participation among some groups that are already here (people with disabilities, seniors, disengaged youth and veterans); retaining more young adult Mainers and attracting others to relocate here, and bringing in more foreign workers.

The companion report from the Maine Development Foundation and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce – “Making Maine Work: Growing Maine’s Workforce” – provides more details on how these specific goals can be realized.

As CEO of Hussey Seating Co., I fully appreciate the importance of our workforce to Maine businesses and our economy as a whole.

Hussey Seating is a sixth-generation, family-owned manufacturing business that dates to 1835. We serve clients and compete with other manufacturers across the nation and around the globe.

For us to continue to be successful, we need to maintain the competitive edge that sets us apart. Access to a highly qualified workforce is our best means to continuing our legacy of being a Maine-based manufacturer. Failure to attract such a workforce would be a major constraint to our success, and is indeed one of the future threats we worry about.

For Maine citizens and employers alike, both the quality (education, health status, knowledge and skills) and quantity of our workforce are critical leverage points for our future.

Beyond this, of course, the cost of doing business, cost of health care, cost of energy and state and local taxes also affect the ability of Maine businesses to compete. Investments in our infrastructure help to support our businesses and our economy. All of these measures are tracked in the Maine Economic Growth Council’s report, and all deserve full public review.

The council takes very seriously its mission as a provider of reliable, consistent and meaningful economic data to Maine’s policymakers and leaders. The council carefully reviews all of the indicators in the report and other potential indicators to ensure that we are addressing the most meaningful economic issues.

We hope and believe that the report is a valuable guide for where we as a state should be focusing our efforts to move Maine’s economy forward.

— Special to the Press Herald