Earlier this year the Maine Development Foundation, a private, non-partisan organization created in statute in 1978, released the 23rd Measure of Growth Report.

This annual report assesses a number of economic indicators in areas such as business climate, workforce, health and wellness, civic assets and the environment to help paint a picture of what life is like for Mainers.

The 2017 report shows that while we have a lot of work to do, we have plenty to be proud of as well. Maine received Gold Stars for exceptional performance in three areas including international imports, air quality and water quality.

From 2015 to 2016, Maine’s international exports grew by nearly 5% while national exports declined by nearly 3 percent.

This is great news for Maine manufacturers competing on a global scale. The quality of water in Maine’s rivers and streams also remains far above U.S. averages as well as our air quality.

The frequency and severity of unhealthy air quality days have significantly declined over the last few decades.

For many, Maine’s pristine forests and waterways are a key factor in the decision to live, work and raise families here. This may not be the easiest place to live, but Mainers work hard and enjoy the bounty of natural resources that is often right out the back door.

And we work hard to maintain the quality of life that we enjoy, which is reflected in these figures.

Some red flags raised in the report were research and development expenditures, fourth grade reading scores, postsecondary educational attainment, working age population and transportation infrastructure.

When it comes to research and development, Maine ranks 37th nationally in investments, spending only about one percent of its total Gross Domestic Product. Just over one-third of our fourth graders tested at “proficient or above” reading levels in 2015; this compares with 43 percent in New England.

We also trail New England’s average for postsecondary degree attainment. Our working age population is declining and projections have us continuing to decline in the future.

We are also falling short of expectations in the category of major roads meeting “fair or better” standards.

Also of note is the fact that Maine ranks 49th out of 50th when it comes to broadband connectivity, but we are slowly getting better.

When it comes to employment, Maine’s projections are encouraging. Between 2015- 2016, Maine added 6,700 nonfarm payroll jobs.

Also during the same time, per capita income increased by $1,500. Just last month, Maine’s Department of Labor announced an unemployment rate of only 3 percent. This is great news and shows that our economy is clearly growing.

Some indicators in the report remained the same, such as eighth grade math scores, the cost of doing business, the cost of health care, the cost of energy, Maine’s tax burden, affordable housing, health insurance coverage, food insecurity and poverty.

So as you can see, we certainly have some challenges ahead of us, but I am both hopeful and excited for what the future brings and I always look forward to the release of this important report, as it provides a clear and unbiased overview of the state that is important when setting priorities and considering new policies in Augusta.

If you have any questions on this or any other legislative matter, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at (207)432-5643.

Senator David Woodsome is currently serving his second term in the Maine State Senate. He represents the people of Senate District 33 which consists of the towns of Cornish, Limerick, Newfield, Parsonsfield, Sanford, Shapleigh and Waterboro.

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