Maine’s economic recovery will take substantial, long-term investment in areas from entrepreneurship, workforce and infrastructure to child care and housing, according to a final report from a panel appointed by Gov. Janet Mills.

The failure of Congress and the White House to agree, or lately even negotiate, another federal stimulus bill may make the state’s recovery from the pandemic recession longer and harder as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths soar in the state, the panel warned.

“With infections in Maine and the nation growing rapidly, but needed federal stimulus nonexistent, the economic crisis is hurting Maine families, displacing workers, affecting schools, and causing businesses, nonprofits and cultural institutions to face deep uncertainty,” said committee Co-Chairs Josh Broder and Laurie Lachance in an introduction to the report.

“This combination makes our bridge to a more vibrant future seem longer than we had hoped, unless COVID-19 is brought under control,” the chairs said. “Beating the pandemic through science-based public health is foundational to any recovery.”

The 40-member committee, formed this spring as the pandemic hit the state, issued a preliminary report in July, advising investment in small business support, schools, child care, rental assistance and broadband internet access to students. Some of those recommendations have been enacted by the Mills administration.

Its final report goes much further, advising a long-term strategy to attract and retain a talented workforce, encourage entrepreneurs, support clean energy and cutting-edge industries, embrace diversity and inclusion, reinforce affordable child care and housing and invest in infrastructure, among other propositions.

The committee suggests taking advantage of historically low interest rates and borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars through general obligation bonds to finance some of its recommendations. It noted the urgent need for more federal money to support towns, cities and critical state government services, and to prevent tax increases on Maine citizens.

Recommended bonds include $100 million for connectivity and digital equity, $50 million for affordable housing, $15 million for early child care and education, $200 million for research and innovation, and $75 million for agricultural and forestry infrastructure. It also recommends boosting the state’s annual $100 million bond for roads and bridges by another $50 million a year.

“The stimulus has not materialized,” Broder said in an interview. “Maine needs to move forward and plan for at least the short-term for that not to be available.”

The committee’s recommendations are meant to get Maine back on track to a 10-year economic development plan finalized by the Mills administration just a year ago, said Lachance in an interview.

That report also highlighted supporting Maine’s people as a precursor to growing, diversifying and modernizing the economy, including an emphasis on child care and affordable housing.

“We have been very careful as we structure our work to make pathways to breathe life back into the 10-year plan,” Lachance said. “We didn’t want our report to draw away from that – we wanted our work to point towards it.”

Among the committee’s focuses is retaining and attracting talented workers, including support for the state’s entrepreneurs, prioritizing education and training for adult workers and making the state more welcoming for immigrants and people of color.

“I think the report lays out a number of really important aspects of building a post-COVID-19 economy,” said David Daigler, president of the Maine Community College System.

The system has been prioritizing rapid skill development as a way to get working adults the skills they need for in-demand positions and on track to earn a degree, Daigler said. He sees that strategy in the report as a way to help restore the state’s economy.

“I know there is a lot in the report, and a lot of detail folks will disagree with, but honestly building a strong workforce is something we can all get behind,” Daigler said.

MaineSpark, an education and workforce coalition committed to having 60 percent of Mainers hold education and workforce credentials that position them for success by 2025, also applauded the aim of the committee’s report.

“By focusing on talent acquisition, innovation and broadband, the economic recovery committee is putting Maine on the correct path toward long-term economy success,” said Jason Judd, executive director of Educate Maine, in a statement.

Live + Work in Maine, a nonprofit that encourages professionals to relocate here to take advantage of the quality of life, also endorsed the committee’s report. Proposed improvements to a student loan tax credit program and rebranding the state to attract knowledge workers for remote work were especially welcome, said Live + Work Executive Director Nate Wildes in a statement.

“We remain bullish on the possibilities that exist for Maine’s economy, and we are eager to continue working with state government and other key partners to see this vision become a reality,” Wildes said.

The committee was made up of diverse stakeholders from the business, education, labor, economic development, finance and nonprofit sectors.

“I am grateful for the energy and diligence with which the entire committee approached this important work, particularly given the difficulties presented by the pandemic,” Gov. Mills said in a statement. “These recommendations give us a strong roadmap to move our economy forward, and I strongly echo the committee’s call for added federal stimulus now, which will help sustain Maine people through these challenging times, allow us to continue fighting the pandemic head-on and achieve our economic recovery.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.