There is a bill going through the Maine legislature entitled: “An Act To Transform the Maine Economy and Create Jobs”. It has a number of components including reducing its carbon footprint, investing more in wind energy, ‘vertically integrating’ the wind energy industry (attracting turbine manufacturers, R&D, etc.), and the creation of a new ED fund. This fund:
Eligible companies receiving funds must create net new jobs that pay at least the average labor market weekly wage and provide at least a 50% employer-paid health care benefit, paid sick leave and access to an approved retirement plan.
I’ve talked about this before but most economic development incentive programs now are requiring a certain ‘quality of job’ (wages, benefits, etc.) before giving out tax breaks or grants.
Expanding research and development into food production to make the State the food basket of the Northeast. Funds will be provided to the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System and the Maine Technology Institute to expand research capacity, develop an educated and skilled workforce, expand business opportunities and create partnerships with local, national and international companies with expertise and capacity in food production.
I’ve always been interested in food as an economic development driver. I’m not talking about agricultural production (although that is part of it) but the potential of being the ‘food basket’ for a wide area and attracting firms like Nestle here. These firms just ship in their raw ingredients by container ship and process them in a centralized facility. They do not necessarily locate in a community that produces a certain mix of agricultural products. People will always need to eat and for a lot of food products, it is not practical to ‘offshore’ the production. I worry a bit about the wage levels in the industry – these days I don’t want to encourage a lower wage industry coming here but I think this would be an interesting one to at least look at – and Maine is.
The bill also includes plans for a virtual medical school, support for the east-west highway, etc.
It’s pretty focused but at the same time a fairly bold new direction.