Karen Mills with Governor Baldacci as the Council on Competitiveness and the Economy is announced in his State House office. Photo by Ramona du Houx

January/February – 2008

By Ramona du Houx

Last November Gov. John Baldacci announced the creation of a business advisory group to support his administration’s efforts to continue to move Maine’s economy forward.”The Council on Competitiveness and the Economy will be the foundation of a public-private partnership that provides nonpartisan perspectives on issues related to business and economic growth within the state,” said Governor Baldacci.

“Maine has been put on an excellent track for being competitive in the 21st century. This is an important moment,” said Karen Mills (photo left with Gov. Baldacci) who is the chair of the new council. “I’m delighted that we are bringing together some terrific bipartisan business leaders who care about the state and will help advise on policy issues, keeping the state on track.”

That track was started when John Baldacci first became governor. Recognizing that Maine’s economy is linked directly to preserving, protecting, and sustaining the state’s natural resources, he has moved the state forward in these areas, while improving educational and business opportunities and returning fiscal responsibility to state government. With Baldacci’s Pine Tree Zone program, companies receive tax breaks that make Maine competitive with other states. With the recent bond package passed by voters last December, needed funds for innovation, which will help Maine become more competitive in the global economy, were approved.

Creating products made from Maine’s natural resources in Maine grows the economy and jobs. Quality Maine products, with lobsters to blueberries, are sold worldwide. Using Maine wood in composite technologies, developed at UMO, has given Maine a reputation for innovation technology. These sectors, amongst others, have been identified as a “growth clusters” by the Council on Jobs, Innovation and the Economy which was set up last winter.

The Council on Competitiveness and the Economy is the successor group to the Council on Jobs, Innovation and the Economy which completed its work by initiating the proposal that was passed as the “jobs bond” question last November.

The governor understands that there is more that needs to be done to realize opportunities for business- and private-sector job growth in Maine. The council’s findings should facilitate needed changes.

“I’m excited by the formation of the council and look forward to working closer with the business community. We have fantastic people doing extraordinary things in Maine. The more I visit different businesses and see what they are doing, the more I learn,” said Gov. Baldacci.

Amongst other issues, this bipartisan group will discuss how business can work more successfully with government. This was outlined as an important objective in the Brookings report on Maine.

“During the campaign last year the Brookings report was issued and the implementation of their recommendations became our goal. This group will move that work forward,” said Baldacci.

The new council will provide expertise and advice on ways to attract federal investment in key sectors, such as energy, technology, and bioscience; strategies to improve trade and export opportunities; investment opportunities in research and development and higher education; coordination of workforce development; access to capital and investment in innovation for traditional and emerging industry clusters; and strategies to make Maine’s regulatory process more user friendly.

“What happens if government is a smart partner with business going forward driving the economy? Brookings told us to think about this question,” said Mills. “We can have less conflicting regulation and more focused working relationships with government. It’s achievable. Working more in partnership with government will help some sectors that have the ability to grow and create more jobs.”