Article and Photos by Ramona du Houx
May 23rd, 2010
Maine has quality of place assets not many New England states offer. Artists and writers have flocked to the state for centuries, inspired by the state’s mountains, lakes, and over 3,000 miles of coastline. Industries were created in the state using Maine’s natural assets. Hydropower generated the energy to sustain mills that utilized the state’s forests, during the last century.
Since Governor John Baldacci has been in office, mills are producing energy from their waste, becoming more efficient and productive. In the past seven years, 1.3 million more acres of forestlands have been preserved. Maine now has sustainable forests for future generations to enjoy and prosper from. An energized push to promote the state’s natural assets for tourism has been underway. And with the governor’s focus on building the creative economy, Maine’s downtowns continue to be revived, as buildings are being restored, innovators are setting up unique shops and an abundance of restaurants and cafes are welcoming customers.
“Quality of place is really about jobs. Maine’s quality of place has always been the foundation for jobs in Maine, whether it was our fishing, farming, and papermaking industries that located here because of our natural resources, or businesses that came here because of our distinctive communities. A major objective of the council is to maintain our quality of place for jobs now and in the future,” said Martha Freeman, director of the State Planning Office.
Downtown Hallowell, Maine
On March 7, 2007, Gov. John Baldacci signed an executive order establishing Maine’s Quality of Place Council. In March a new law, An Act to Create Regional Quality of Place Investment Strategies for High-value Jobs, Products, and Services in Maine, established the council, permanently.
The chair of the council, Richard Baringer, said, “I believe this is a landmark event in Maine economic history. It is the very fist law of its kind in the nation, one that marks a tuning point for Maine economic development policy, from a focus on addressing perceived weaknesses to building upon our recognized strengths.”
The council, in consultation with economic development districts, will help establish standards and guidelines for regional quality of place investment strategies.
“Maine is a unique place, and what is special about Maine is also the foundation of our future prosperity,” said Governor Baldacci. “Our downtowns, culture, livable communities, natural beauty, and recreational assets give Maine a strong competitive edge in today’s global economy. Maine’s special character helps us retain and attract the skilled workers we need for our economy to grow.”
With the work the Baldacci administration has done with broadband, Maine is building a comprehensive broadband infrastructure, utilizing Recovery Act funds for the initiative. Broadband makes it possible for people working in the global economy to live and work from home. These skilled professionals have the freedom to live where they choose.
“One of the pieces of research the council did was a study which found that workers who have skills they can use anywhere because of the technology and are attracted to areas with a strong quality of place. They look for good schools, recreational opportunities, a clean environment with safe, wonderful communities, and Maine has all that in abundance. Our goal is to attract more people to Maine, to grow the economy and increase incomes,” said Freeman.
The Kennebec River in Solon, Maine
In 2009 the state began an effort to map all of its assets, working with economic development agencies in every country. From workforce skills to quality of place attributes, this new profile of Maine will help communities take advantage of their natural assets. The initiative, called Mobilize Maine, is working with the Quality of Place Council. Mobilize Maine relies on people in local communities taking part in discussions to promote their region. It’s the first time an effort like this has been undertaken by the state.alt
“I truly believe that the special character of Maine’s people, Maine’s communities, and Maine’s natural resources are powerful economic drivers. It will take more hard work to realize the prosperity that Maine’s quality of place promises,” said the governor. “We must now turn to the work of investing in and marketing these assets effectively, working with Mobilize Maine. Working locally and regionally, developing what is needed economically to grow and use Maine’s quality of place, will grow jobs and incomes. We must continue to shape Maine government and Maine’s economic and workforce development strategies to target investment in our quality of place assets.”