The Maine Association of Nonprofits is feeling steamed after being informed by the governor’s office that it’s entitled only to alternate seating at Gov. Paul LePage’s upcoming job creation summits.

The first priority for seating, the association was told, is for businesses. So it went public with this response, calling it – essentially – an insult to the state’s nonprofits, which employ about one in seven of Maine’s work force, or approximately 82,000 people.

Except that select nonprofits, such as hospitals, schools and food banks will flank private-sector businesses at these meetings.

This makes perfect sense, as many institutions that are the economic engines of communities and regions are indeed nonprofit.

Health care and education are the prime examples.

The latest issue of MaineBiz, for example, lists the asset value of Maine Medical Center in Portland (more than $1 billion), MaineGeneral Health in Augusta and Waterville (more than $328 million) and Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston (more than $240 million).


These three nonprofit hospitals are dominant in their economic landscape, particularly within the capital area, where MaineGeneral’s new $312 million regional hospital, now under construction, is the largest investment to occur in the region in decades.

In education, nonprofit institutions by the name of Colby, Bowdoin and Bates are powerful economic, social and cultural organizations. The millions of dollars these colleges and Maine’s other private universities and prep schools can churn and spend are real and important economic activity.

Not all nonprofits are so potent, clearly, but they still play a vital role locally. The Maine Association of Nonprofits represents smaller, regional groups with fewer assets, revenue and, therefore, economic impact. This doesn’t mean they should wait for seats, however.

The effect of nonprofits as economic drivers is felt greatest in more rural Maine, where smaller hospitals in places such as Rockport, Skowhegan, Farmington and Rumford are critical job creators.

For signature industries in Maine such as tourism and working waterfronts, partnerships between private industry and nonprofit organizations have paid significant dividends.

Land trusts have worked with fishermen to protect access to the water, which has dwindled. Museums and other cultural nonprofits have revitalized downtowns and allowed commercial businesses to flourish around them.

But the bottom line is this: The interest of all nonprofits in attending the job creation summit should be evidence enough of their suitability to do so.

Yes, businesses and nonprofits are different. A job is a job, however, regardless of who creates it.


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