In a recent special report in “The Economist,” it was noted that the Eurozone was “less indebted than America,” going on to differentiate strong and weak nation states within.

Knowing Maine’s tax rates, high energy costs and low family incomes, not to mention Maine’s ranking 50th among U.S. states in business attractiveness, we surely need to scramble.

Gov. LePage’s focus on lower tax rates, streamlining regulation, avoiding debt out of the blocks, followed by a new focus on energy, education and the economy, is astute and pragmatic.
Now we need to get boots on the ground.

One area where Maine’s economic boots are worn is in our natural-resource economy.

Take energy.

Fresh off three decades of rolling moratoriums for every source of energy except the latest cause du jour, we now hear talk of putting all options on the table with tough, predictable, fair regulations and market forces to bring our costs down towards the national average.

Being relatively close to the Middle East, Canadian hydro and having our own renewable energy resources in geothermal, hydro, biomass, wind and tidal currents, we have an opening window of opportunity.

The expanding footprint of natural gas into our industrial sites, and expanding LNG and oil refinery capacities in nearby New Brunswick, all help us hedge our renewable bets.

Take forest products.

In Westbrook, we are producing World Cup soccer shoes and Gucci jackets out of Maine paper.

In Old Town, our pulp mill is producing jet fuel.

Paper mills are upgrading capacity to record production levels, even as some consume more wood for marketable power production than they consume in quality fiber for paper and pulp.

Composite wood, liquid fuels and sugar from trees are being researched at the University of Maine, while Europeans are eyeing torrefied wood, so-called wood coal that they can burn in the existing fluidized bed coal power plants.

Sawmills are toughing out a housing recession, yet the projected 60 percent increase in annual allowable cut in spruce/fir over the next 20 years, not to mention the rising volumes of white pine, all bode well.

One has only to look at the collapsing commercial forest acreage and processing capacity elsewhere in the Northeast quadrant of the U.S., to see that Maine is well positioned.

The stability of long-term timber production, created by our tree-growth, forest practices and outcome-based forestry programs and the easement movement, supports long-term timber ownership.
Is a natural resources break-out strategy under way in Maine?

Consider global companies investing for the long term in Maine: Iberdrola of Spain, Woodland Pulp of China, Nestle’s of Switzerland, Irving and Emera of Canada, Sappi of South Africa, General Dynamics, Florida Power and Light of the U.S. And the list goes on and on.

Recognized conservation groups such as The Nature Conservancy, Appalachian Mountain Club, Forest Society of Maine and Audubon and respected land trusts invest in Maine and wed conservation with working forests.

Some of the nation’s wealthiest individuals, who invest with a belief in a balance between environment and economy in the long term, individuals such as John Malone of Colorado, are joining thousands of Maine landowners and entrepreneurs.

These natural-resource champions not only believe Maine is a quality place to invest, but the iconic 21st century agrarian economy and quality of place they create is what also draws firms such as Jackson Lab and other high-tech businesses to Maine.

For me, the Zen moment came when the Sierra Club suggested that the brook trout needed more felled trees in our streams to provide for shadows, cover and roughage.

Perhaps their new dance partner will be the Maine logger.

Maybe the native brook trout will be to the Maine economy what the sheep and hobbits are to New Zealand.