Maine's hope is with the creative economy and a future with Michaud

Congressman Mike Michaud at the launching of the University of Maine's first offshore wind floating turbine and platform developed and patented at the University. The VolturnUS is the first of its kind in North America. Michaud, along with Gov. Baldacci and the Congressional Delegation helped to get grants from the state and federal government to make the project possible. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Editorial by Ramona du Houx

Artists, artisans, farmers, engineers, designers, IT computer professionals, inventors, microbrewers, and unique retailers can be found in every corner of our state. More café’s and restaurants are opening daily. Maine’s creative economy, embracing technology, talent and tolerance, is in full swing. These, more than 143,000 small businesses, entrepreneurs are our mainstay.

Two out of every three jobs are created by a small business—and more than 280,000 Mainers are employed by a small business.

They are forging ahead, despite a bad business climate created by Gov. LePage’s administration. But small businesses hurt when their taxes go up because the state has cut back funds to municipalities forcing towns to increase property taxes. They hurt when there is a new law that doesn’t allow a business, where you live and work, to deduct part of their property expenses on the Maine tax return. They hurt when people’s incomes stagnate.

Under Governor LePage’s watch, Maine ranks forty-sixth in the nation for jobs recovered since the recession. While the rest of the country has recovered 101 percent of lost jobs, Maine has only recovered 48 percent, and most of them are in the Portland area.

According to CNBC, Maine is ranked 45th on its list of America’s Top States for Business– including specific rankings as 46th in infrastructure and 48th in overall economy.

Most of Maine is still hurting.

With the Baldacci administration hospitals expanded and health care was a stable and growing sector. With LePage Maine health care jobs are at risk, due in part because of his and his allies refusal to accept federal funds and increase health care access for seventy thousand Mainers. Hospitals were depending upon ACA Medicaid reimbursement funds. The Washington Post recently reported, hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid experienced a big decline in uninsured admissions.

Maine state economist Amanda Rector acknowledged to the Portland Press Herald that, “Maine's decision to forgo the expansion - and federal funding to pay for it in full during the first three years of the ACA - is most likely a major reason we rank 39th nationally and last in New England in personal income growth.”

The Governor’s refusal to issue bonds when he held them hostage, or to do so in a timely manner, has left thousands out of work, and added millions of dollars in costs to ongoing projects. Funding cuts at the municipal level, because the state has cut back funds it used to send to towns have resulted in pink slips for teachers, first responders, and employees.

LePage has made Maine known as a state that doesn’t keep its word on business deals. A Norwegian company, Statoil, canceled its plan to invest $120 million on an experimental wind farm off the Maine coast when the Governor bullied legislation through the state senate to renege on a deal the Maine Public Utilities Commission had already made, on behalf of the people of Maine, with Satoil. His actions also hurt the University of Maine’s chances to win a larger Department of Energy grant to continue developing America’s first floating offshore wind turbine farm with their patented floating wind turbine, Maine Aqua Ventus.

Lawmakers began to fight back last session, with bills that withstood the governor’s veto power.  One measure they passed was a $12 million bond, which will appear on the November ballot that will allocate money to finance small businesses and entrepreneurs through the Finance Authority of Maine and community based partners.

Bu it’s clear small businesses need more help. And affordable healthcare needs to become a reality. And there is hope on the horizon Mike Michaud plans to create food hubs, a Domestic Trading Center and pass the ACA.

Meanwhile Maine’s creative economy with all our small businesses is holding the fort.