A survey of Maine business leaders suggests that things might be looking up. Compared to a year ago, more say they plan to hire new workers or make capital investments, according to a Critical Insights poll released this week.

Other good news in the poll is that the business leaders give Maine good marks for the quality of its labor force, both in terms of employees’ education and their work ethic.

They also report that they like Maine’s quality of life and consider that a positive reason to locate here.

The bad news in the report should also be a cause for concern. The high cost of health care is the No. 1 problem cited by 80 percent of those who responded to the survey.

And excessive government regulation appears to be a growing complaint, surpassing high taxes as a negative factor for the first time since the poll was first conducted in 2003.

But even this can be seen as a sign of progress. It could mean that checks on government spending have had an effect on Maine’s relative taxation, letting other problems rise to the surface.

A reputation for excessive government regulation is nothing to celebrate, and repairing that perception should give the next governor and Legislature something to work on when they come back to Augusta next year.

The positive view of Maine’s labor force and the receding complaints about the state’s tax structure, however, give them something positive to build on.

This has been a hard recession, taking a toll on almost every sector of the state’s economy.

This slightly more optimistic view by business leaders, even when they are listing the state’s biggest problems, indicates that things may be changing for the better.


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