Business leaders discuss jobs at Gov. Balacci's Job Summit

By Ramona du Houx - February 9th, 2010 · 

Gov. John Baldacci talks with lawmakers at the state house in Maine. His Job Summit could produce the basis of legislation for lawmakers to approve. Photo by Ramona du Houx

The Governor’s Job Summit brought together individuals representing 80 businesses from across Maine. The purpose of the summit, co-hosted by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, was to discuss effective ways to increase job creation.

In his welcoming remarks, the Governor said that many of the participants have not only weathered the current deep economic recession, but in many cases have expanded.

“You have shown amazing resilience in this severe recession,” said the Governor. “We will be listening to you as job creators and capital investors for your insights on how you succeed in difficult times. While I know there are no easy answers to get people employed, I believe all of us in the public sector need to hear from you what works.”

Large and small businesses attended, many praised the state’s Pine Tree Zone program. Pine Tree Zones, started by Governor Baldacci, give companies tax breaks for ten years. The state has certified 200 companies as Pine Tree Zones, expanding in Maine or locating here. That represents over 3,000 jobs and $2 million in payroll, according to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD).

“We’ve managed to grow during the recession,” said Ken Priest owner of Kenway Boats in Augusta who attended the summit. “You have to diversify, and use the resources Maine has to offer.”

Kenway builds composite boats and has been working with the University of Maine’s advanced composite center to enhance his products.

“They have helped us tremendously, along with Maine Technology Institute. In 2005 we expanded with the state’s Pine Tree Zone assistance. That took us to the next level,” said Priest. “There are productive ways that the private/public sector can successfully work together.”

After hearing from Dana Connors, President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, and Thaxter Trafton, Commissioner of DECD, participants broke into smaller sessions to discuss such topics as State support for job creation in business sectors; strategies that help businesses grow; how companies use existing State programs; and how existing State investments and initiatives can be changed to better meet the needs of Maine businesses.

Work session discussions highlighted a number of topics as keys to business success in Maine, including:

• Energy efficiency;
• A workforce educated for today’s skilled jobs;
• Simple access for businesses to economic development programs;
• A clear process for obtaining permits;
• Stability in State programs;
• Access to capital;
• Effective transportation within Maine and to markets beyond;
• Capitalizing on Maine’s assets of people, place and natural resources; and
• Marketing the Maine Brand widely.

The Governor said that the summit will help Maine tailor its efforts to help companies create jobs.

“Looking forward, it’s important for you to know that today’s summit is not a one-shot, one-day exercise, but needs to be a continuing dialogue,” said the Governor. “We in State government will take what is learned today and continue working with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and businesses to develop public policy and focus scarce public resources where they do the most good. We are in this together – we want your businesses to succeed and you want your communities to succeed.”

State lawmakers, members of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Finance Authority of Maine, Maine Technology Institute, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program and other Baldacci administration officials participated in the summit.