Building economic advantages
Over the last couple of weeks, I had the opportunity to work with the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development on a bill I authored, LD 679 Resolve, To Leverage Federal Opportunities for Job Creation in Maine. I was very pleased when the Committee gave this bill their unanimous support and sent it on for passage on the floor of the House and Senate.
I introduced this legislation because the state has an essential role in the process of job creation and promoting new investment for all of our communities -- and I want our state to be working smart. In our part of the state, we are seeing sustained economic turmoil as our traditional, resource based industries seem to be losing some of their competitive advantage in an expanding world market, and we are not yet finding those new economic opportunities that will provide the jobs and prosperity for dislocated workers as well as those people who are newly entering the workforce.
Economic development is really a mosaic where many pieces have to be identified and fall into place in order for us to be successful. Jobs must be created by the private sector, but the state has a role to play in creating a climate for business to grow and for entrepreneurs to invest. The marketplace is competitive -- with incentives being offered by state and local governments to attract new investments and encourage the creation of new jobs.
The federal government, too, has been playing a role in providing stimulus for economic development. The best of that stimulus role has come when the federal government has created incentives to investment in new and expanding sectors -- both manufacturing and service business. As our economy continues to struggle, the federal government has been developing new approaches and devoting new resources to job generation at the local level. While the federal budget is tight -- and getting tighter, there will continue to be resources and investments from the federal government to maintain and stimulate our economic and job growth.
The purpose of this bill is very simple -- to make sure that our state and local policy leaders in economic development are looking for all of the ways to maximize our use of available federal resources, and that we are coordinating state investments -- both existing and emerging -- with those federal opportunities.
Even though I do not have an extensive business resume, I do understand the simple concept of leverage, and that is my goal with this bill. Maine needs to make sure that the business tools we have in place can take maximum advantage of targeted federal business incentives. This is a developing landscape, and I expect we will see some new initiatives as we enter the 2012 election cycle. I want to be sure Maine is positioned to take the best advantage of any of these emerging opportunities.
To that end, the bill proposes that the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development monitor and evaluate the existing and emerging federal development incentives, analyze how state programs and resources -- including tax policies, training programs and everything else -- coordinate with these federal initiatives. The question is simple -- Are we maximizing our position to take advantage of resources to create new quality jobs for Maine citizens?
There is no new cost attached to this initiative; we are not creating a new bureaucracy or a new study commission or other entity. Instead, the bill attempts to raise an important issue and ask the Department of Economic and Community Development to examine alternatives and report back to the Legislature by the end of the year. In this way, we can determine if there are areas where we can suggest new policies or approaches that may complement our efforts to expand jobs and economic activity in the state.
A great deal of attention is being focused on the business climate in Maine -- questions are being raised about the regulatory environment and obstacles that it may raise to the expansion of businesses and jobs. I think these are important questions and issues that we should be addressing.
This bill tries to take a complementary approach -- instead of looking at the obstacles, the Department of Economic and Community Development should be looking at the opportunities we might have if we can better leverage federal, state and local resources to expand our employment and business base. We need to be looking at both sides of this equation if we are really going to do our best as a body intent on strengthening the Maine economy.
I am gratified by the support from my colleagues in the Legislature for this common sense idea sending it to the floor with a unanimous recommendation. I look forward to this being one more piece in the larger puzzle of encouraging investment and creating new jobs for the River Valley and the entire state of Maine.