Earlier this week I addressed two of Maine’s regional chambers of commerce: the Southern Midcoast Chamber of Commerce and the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce. It’s important to recognize Maine businesses – both large and small – for what they do every day to keep the Maine economic engine working. And for all the support they give to the communities where they play such a critical role.
These are difficult times in our state and our nation, and Maine business owners feel that every day as they look at their bottom lines and work with their employees and customers.
National numbers show that the economy is still in a precarious position.
Indicators are mixed.
People’s confidence is still lagging, meaning that we have a long way to go to recovery.
That’s why the State’s been focused on improving our business climate and providing incentives for expanding the economy.
We have been working with Maine businesses and specifically partnering with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce to improve our outreach and existing programs, and innovating to lay a foundation for future growth.
We are providing the tools to innovators and businesses so that they can succeed.
Maine has been cited as a national leader by The National Economic Council and Fortune Magazine for doing what regional economies need to do to create sustainable growth and quality jobs.
And Maine is a national leader in creating clean energy jobs.
This is important for our State.
We are seeking to grow traditional industries and develop groundbreaking technologies.
Continuing workforce and economic development in ocean renewable energy development can play a key role in economic growth here for generations to come.
According to the PEW Charitable Trust, from 1998 to 2007, Maine green jobs grew by 22.7 percent compared to 9.1 percent nationally.
We are on the cusp of being worldwide leaders in offshore energy development.
Maine also leads the nation in investments in early-stage, innovative companies – as noted by CB Insights.
Portland earned the 5th highest ranking in the country for best place to launch a small business – according to portfolio.com.
So the State is working with our regional partners to aggressively reinvigorate the economy.
We expanded the successful Pine Tree Economic Development Zone program – as an invaluable investment tool administered by the Maine Department of Economic Development.
To date, 309 companies have located to Maine or expanded their businesses in Maine.
These companies have committed to more than $800 million in investments and over $300 million in payroll representing over 8000 jobs.
These are largely manufacturing jobs that are good paying and which will have a ripple impact on the entire economy of the region.
So our goal is to bring opportunity to all residents and all businesses throughout the State.
But there’s more we can and must do, and we are aggressively working with private businesses, the Maine Chamber and other partners to improve business climate and increase those investments.
We’ve been targeting foreign direct investment with the help of the Maine International Trade Center and the Maine Department of Economic Development and others.
We recently announced this Invest in Maine initiative, which will attract new investments into our State.
Attracting businesses to come back to Maine from overseas.
From the Jobs Summit held earlier this year with the Maine Chamber, we heard how crucial it is to continually develop our workforce and to ensure easier access for Maine businesses to all the statewide programs and incentives that are designed to help them succeed.
As a result of that summit, the Maine Chamber and my office have been offering a series of regional networking forums for business leaders throughout the State.
We’re also making the Maine Department of Economic Development a One-Stop-Shop for businesses to help them to navigate through State programs and incentives.
We recognize that not every area of Maine needs or wants the same kind of development.
That is why I’ve charged the Department with coordinating and empowering regions so that they can further economic development in ways that makes sense.
This encourages economic development from the ground-up, not top-down.
And the State is partnering with the Chamber on an initiative we’ll be jointly announcing that targets our students and their future opportunities in Maine.
We will enable Maine students to see the opportunities that are here in the State once they graduate.
And they’ll be able to gain valuable experience on the job.
It is important for our State to do this.
And we want our talent, our youth, our future, our workforce to get a high quality education and training and to keep their talents here in Maine.
We want to all Maine businesses and Maine people to have the tools to help them thrive for years to come.