For nearly three years, our country and state have struggled to climb out of a stagnant economy. Lawmakers across the country and in Maine have scrambled for the right solution.

Even in our own state, Gov. LePage has told us that one of his top priorities is the economy. And, in fact, he is holding “jobs workshops” with business leaders across the state.

However, even though a “jobs workshop” makes for a good headline, the governor is missing key opportunities to actually get Maine people back to work. In this instance, the governor has excluded some key job creators from the conversation: nonprofits.

Nonprofits account for 14 percent of Maine’s work force. And the nonprofit sector has actually shown growth in the current recession. So why is the governor excluding them from the conversation?

The data are clear. Nonprofits play a vital role in creating jobs, spurring investment and strengthening Maine’s economy. Just last week, CEI – a nonprofit – announced that it is investing $5.5 million to help finance job creation efforts in rural Maine. A $5.5 million investment for job creation should not be snubbed!

Even better, with this investment, CEI will leverage upwards of $40 million in additional public-private investment. In 2011 alone, CEI financed nearly 70 businesses statewide, which in turn created or retained nearly 1,400 jobs throughout Maine.

So why, then, doesn’t CEI have a seat at Gov. LePage’s job creation table? And why is he refusing to explore all options for creating jobs?

A short list of successful nonprofits includes Jackson Lab, a nonprofit with more than 1,400 employees that recently received more than $33 million in a national grant; Maine Medical Center, which employs nearly 6,500 people and continues to rank among Maine’s top employers; and Opportunity Alliance (Youth Alternatives Ingraham & PROP), which has more than 450 employees and revenues close to $35 million.

Knowing these facts, I’m unsure what prevents Gov. LePage from including nonprofits along with the private sector in the conversation about job growth and job creation. With so many people out of work, why wouldn’t you include all of those who offer real solutions? What a missed opportunity!

The governor continues to demonstrate a disconnect with Maine people. This time, he bashed Maine’s unemployed to a group of business owners at a jobs worshop! As reported in the Bangor Daily News, Gov. LePage actually blamed unemployed workers for not working. He said the unemployed might be getting paid too much to not work.

How can he be so completely out of touch with the struggles and realities of Maine people? The governor’s insults to the very people he’s trying to help do not make sense.

This rhetoric will not create one job. It will not retrain one worker. It will not generate one dollar. And it will not move Maine forward. It is divisive and amounts to a missed opportunity to get Mainers back to work.

And so there’s a pattern of the governor parading through the state, choosing winners and creating losers. Rather than being inclusive, he is exclusive. Rather than problem-solving with all, he is blaming, accusatory and punitive.

In January, the Legislature will reconvene and the governor will be faced with a choice. He can continue to miss opportunities, scapegoating Maine workers and going it alone, or he can work with the Legislature to find solutions.

Many of us come from the private sector and have a wealth of experience working with our state’s small and large businesses. But instead of teaming up with us, the governor walks alone.

The governor’s “go-it-alone” attitude is unsustainable. There are many issues that Democrats and Republicans disagree on, but getting Mainers back to work is not one of them. If we all work together to create jobs we can get Maine back on track.

Maine’s economy depends on the private sector, nonprofits and government all working together to fill gaps and leverage opportunities.

Collaborating and prioritizing make sense. Democrats will remain focused. And through strategic investments and considering options – regardless of ideology – Democrats will continue working for all Maine people. I hope we can count on our colleagues across the aisle to do the same.

– Special to the Press Herald