Something that the Maine success stories identified in Alan Caron and Catherine Renault’s “Growing Small Business in Maine” (April 6) is that most started inauspiciously. We all know the Bean boot story. The Stonewall Kitchens guys spent five early years at farmers markets. Dream Local was a garage start-up in 2009. Before they were recognized as entrepreneurs, they were simply small business start-ups.
Companies like these need different kinds of support at different stages of development. Some of the existing economic development structure assists them at inception. Other components address very specific needs later on.
The opinions expressed in that commentary supported a funding focus on entrepreneurs and innovators. I agree that’s necessary, but not to the detriment of other economic development efforts. A singular focus of an economic silver bullet aimed only at innovators is as myopic as just chasing smokestacks. An effective development approach must be more nuanced and multi-faceted given that 140,000 small businesses provide jobs for more than 220,000 Mainers.
When you examine their many needs and recognize the broad geographical region that is served, only then can you begin to appreciate the intricacy of the issue. Additionally, contrary to the statement that all support organizations are vying for the same entrepreneurship dollars, most leverage a diverse mix of federal, state, regional and local support, grants and program income to do their good work.
I do agree, though, that better focus and collaboration is needed. But it seems a consistent, long-range, effective strategy just can’t be accomplished given the quadrennial change of winds from Augusta.