Two workers from Portsmouth Navel Shipyard in Kittery thank the governor for standing firm and fighting the Federal Department of Defense to keep the base open. The governor saved 4,800 jobs at PNSY. In the past three years Governor Baldacci has helped save over 7,000 jobs in the state. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Winter – 2005

Article by Ramona du Houx

Most of us judge the economy by what we see: new businesses opening up, businesses expanding, workers at construction sites, and whether or not our stores are busy. Not bad indicators, but not a fair assessment of a state as large as Maine. Each county has unique qualities, talented people, and natural assets. With 16 counties in an area of 33,215 square miles, it’s a challenge to “see” how the state is doing overall.

Then there are folks that have returned or come to Maine to start their lives over in what has become known as the “creative economy.” Entrepreneurs to corporate executives have chosen Maine because of its quality of life. They are setting up new businesses, many of which do not rely on “going to work” other than turning on the computer at home. The Internet has given rise to ever-increasing home-based employment, and with the Baldacci administration’s efforts, more people in Maine are taking advantage of the worldwide telecommunications community for incomes.

Others are starting businesses in towns all across the state. “My dream was to open a café,” said one of the owners of a busy Dover Foxcroft establishment. “I traveled back and forth to Boston the last year before I opened the Cup and Easel, to make enough to start it up. Now here we are. Maine’s given me the opportunity to do what I always wanted to.” The café also serves as a gallery for local artisans who are part of the creative economy. The owner said he made the final decision to locate in Maine when he found out the local lumberyard was going to stay open and expand because of a Pine Tree Zone certification. “To me that meant the state is looking out for its small businesses and helping where needed.”

“Maine’s high quality of life, good air-and-highway connections, combined with accessible fiber optic communications capacity, may be very conducive to more professionals who live here, get their paychecks from somewhere else, but spend most of it here, thus helping the economy grow,” said Commissioner of the Department of Labor Laura Fortman.

Maine is becoming a place to pursue realistic dreams, far away from the maddening crowd. The telecommunications infrastructure continues to expand across Maine with the governor’s IT (information technology) initiatives and ConnectMe program, and more business assistance has been set up because of Baldacci’s foresight into the new economy.

But how can one get a realistic pulse on the level of employment in Maine, since it is changing rapidly in this new economy?

“Traditionally, we have focused on jobs numbers based on jobs created by Maine firms. This is what is called payroll or non-farm employment,” said Fortman. In a new study the Department of Labor (DOL) used a new method to calculate job growth, based more upon the face of the changing economy.

“When we focus on Maine residents employed, the number of Maine residents employed increased from 655,000 to 677,000 or by 22,000 between 2002 and 2005. In this count of household-based employment, we include self-employed individuals, private household workers, farm workers, and Maine residents working out of state.”

That’s 22,000 new jobs on John Baldacci’s watch.

“A 22,000 increase in Maine residents working shows positive growth, and growth in a way that reflects the 21st Century economy. More than before, through technology and the globalization of economies, people can enjoy the benefits of living in Maine while doing work in the next state, across the country, or across the globe,” said State Planning Director Martha Freeman. “The governor’s technology initiatives, research and development investments, emphasis on obtaining higher education, and support for Maine’s creative economy all promote these new kinds of work opportunities for Maine residents.”

“Maine is headed in the right direction for the 21st century,” stated Governor Baldacci.

Freeman noted other positive economic indicators in addition to the robust job rate:

• Most recently Maine’s gross state product grew by over 3 percent, which in November ranked Maine 19th among the 50 states.

• Personal income is forecasted to grow by 5 percent in 2005 and 2006. Maine’s strategies for growth are attracting attention.

The Organization for Economic Opportunity and Development recently selected Maine as one of the sites for a major international study examining the links between economic and workforce development.

“I’m proud to have Maine selected to take part in this study,” said Governor Baldacci. “As a leader in New England, Maine can use this opportunity to be a model for strong economic development for the rest of the world.”