Friday, April 18, 2014
By GEORGE GERVAIS
AUGUSTA – Improving Maine's business climate and moving our economy forward is a marathon, not a sprint. The LePage administration's approach to sustainable prosperity is bold and our commitment relentless.
The mission is clear: Lower the cost of energy, prepare our work force for 21st-century job opportunities and build an overall foundation for economic growth.
Since January, Maine's unemployment rate has decreased and is currently 7.3 percent. This rate is well below the national average and below the New England average, yet Gov. LePage knows we can do better.
The governor and his administration are committed to paving the way for more private-sector job growth and putting Mainers back to work. Although some predictions from some experts paint a less-than-optimistic outlook for our economy and job creation going forward, the facts indicate otherwise.
Cutting red tape and regulatory reform through LD 1 was a terrific start. Government can no longer get in the way of job creation. The business community now has a willing partner in Augusta.
Gone are the days where state government will be viewed as an obstacle to prosperity. One example is here at the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, where there is now a team of Governor's Account Executives.
This team will serve as the one resource for business owners to help guide them through the process of starting a business, expanding or relocating. That work is already paying off!
Hundreds of people are heading back to work in the Millinocket region as the governor led an effort to reopen the Katahdin-region mills.
Earlier this month, Carbonite, the leading provider of online backup solutions, relocated its customer support operations from India to Lewiston, bringing 150 new jobs.
Hinckley Yachts in Southwest Harbor is planning an expansion and 50 new jobs. The list goes on and on.
Here are just some of the more than 50 Maine businesses poised to grow and add jobs: Allagash Brewing in Portland, Harvey Metals in Brunswick, LaJoie Growers in Van Buren, PRL Hancock, LLC in Hancock, Core Logix in Biddeford, Azarias International in Biddeford, Tasman Industries in Hartland, Shad's Custom Countertops in Windham, Front Street Shipyard in Belfast, Maine Coast Shellfish in York, Ocean Renewable Power in Eastport, TrueLine Publishing in Portland and Great Northern Timber in Millinocket.
Aside from the numerous on-the-ground examples of jobs being created, recent data reinforce the fact that Gov. Le-Page's policies and initiatives are indeed creating job opportunities for Mainers. Since July, the number of people employed in Maine increased by more than 3,000 and unemployment decreased from 7.7 percent to 7.3 percent, the lowest rate Maine has experienced since December 2008.
It is no coincidence that this increase in employment comes right on the heels of a legislative session that produced a fiscally responsible biennial budget and numerous policy initiatives specifically targeted at creating an environment that allows job creators to thrive.
At the governor's recent Job Creation Workshops, held in South Portland, Bangor and Auburn, administration officials heard directly from job creators. Many spoke about the need for a better-trained work force.
Maine's seven community colleges are well aware of this problem and are embracing the challenge. For example, Northern Maine Community College's newly renovated welding lab is a state-of-the-art facility that will help train our future work force so it can take advantage of the many good-paying trade and technical occupations available now and in the future.
The business community also spoke out about our high cost of energy and how it is killing job opportunities in Maine. Gov. LePage has said on several occasions that he will continue to promote any energy source that achieves one goal -- lowering the cost for commercial and residential ratepayers.
Growing our economy will require a balanced approach, the private sector and state government working together. Maine's business climate has changed in the last 11 months and will continue to improve under the leadership of Gov. LePage. Clearly, the private sector is taking notice.
George Gervais is commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.