Recent events leave no doubt that Maine business owners and workers cannot afford to wait for rational federal solutions for creating economic growth. Instead, we need to rely on our strengths and creativity to create a sustainable and healthy Maine economy.

As a starting point, we need to recognize that we have many strategic advantages.

Maine has a distinctive brand based on our excellent workforce and the beauty of Maine.

Maine’s natural resources are a unique economic advantage in a world that is too often overheated, deforested, polluted and overpopulated.

Our natural resources provide the key ingredient for production of food and energy, and the natural beauty of our state attracts entrepreneurial talent, capital, and tourists from beyond our borders.

Maine is strategically located between the strong economy of New Brunswick and metropolitan Boston and New York.

Our deepwater ports, such as Portland and Searsport, provide an efficient means of transporting goods to the world market. The Portland International Jetport is improved and provides reasonable access to air travel. With the closing of the Brunswick Naval Air Station, we have a historic opportunity to build a multi-dimensional business hub with air transportation access.

While our state government is not proactive on economic development, our governmental entities are led by honest and committed citizens and our most recent Legislature made pragmatic steps that benefited our economy.

So, in light of our strengths and the many challenges, how do we invest, innovate, and succeed with our individual businesses to grow our local economy?

We can start with a strategic plan for our business that identifies our business’ strengths, steps for meeting needs of current customers, areas for growth, realistic goals, and specific actions needed for meeting those goals.

All employees need to understand and “buy into” the strategic plan. In many cases, the owner and employees will need to re-tool their skills, and the workforce composition may need to be changed to ensure success with implementing strategic goals.

As we continue to meet our customers’ needs with our traditional core goods and services, we need to expand into related fields that have significant growth opportunities.

We need to form clusters of synergistic Maine businesses in such growth areas as intellectual property, composites, veterinary sciences, healthy/locally grown foods, precision manufacturing and renewable energy.

To succeed in these growth areas, we need to attract world-class talent from our universities, from metropolitan areas such as Boston and from other countries.

To grow, our businesses need capital. While Maine has limited “angel investors,” a viable business concept can find capital from a range of sources, such as the Maine Technology Fund, CEI Ventures, Libra Future Fund, the Finance Authority of Maine, the Small Business Administration and community-based investors.

We need to market our ideas, goods, and services worldwide. With Internet and social networking, our ability to market and deliver goods and services is no longer limited to any one market. The Maine International Trade Association is a great resource for doing business on an international basis.

And then each business owner in Maine needs to take the critical next step to invest, hire new workers, and build a dynamic, sustainable local economy.

— Special to the Maine Sunday Telegram