While some cities are booming, too much of Maine remains in a persistent economic downturn, especially in the rim counties and former mill towns. Instead of looking to a single economic driver to reverse that trend, I believe we must embrace an ‘all of the above’ strategy that highlights our key competitive advantages, develops new industries, and lays the groundwork for economic growth in all parts of Maine.
Some policies we should start with include:
- Bringing our infrastructure up to modern standards, including high-speed internet. One step is to implement a ‘dig-once’ policy, which calls for road construction to also lay fiber-optic cable alongside. Another is to finally put in place a comprehensive statewide broadband strategy, to coordinate and connect the patchwork of private, local and state projects currently underway.
- Building a first-rate education system that will attract young families and train the next generation of Maine entrepreneurs and workers — including fully funding the state’s education obligations. In addition to computer science programs at the university level, we should offer similar courses at the middle- and high-school levels, as well as investing in vocational and technical programs that prepare students for good-paying jobs. And at the college level, we should partner with local businesses to match our programs to their needs, and then place graduates with Maine companies that are desperate for skilled workers.
- Taking stock of our competitive advantages, including beautiful and spacious abandoned mill buildings, a solid bedrock of granite, and cold temperatures. To take just one example, Maine is ideally situated to host the next wave of data storage facilities, a rapidly growing industry that spends spend colossal amounts on air-conditioning, and which requires areas without natural disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes. With the right investments in broadband infrastructure, data warehousing could bring good-paying construction, maintenance, programming, and business development jobs to exactly those areas hit hardest by mill closings.
- Investing in research and development. Currently Maine ranks only 36th among states in R&D spending as a percent of GDP. Nevertheless, projects like the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at UMaine Orono create hundreds of jobs and dozens of spin-off companies, including groundbreaking research on offshore wind energy and new wood products. As Governor, I will work to make Maine a leader in cutting-edge research, especially in clean energy and material sciences.