Building an economy for the 21st century means creating new opportunities for Maine people and businesses to prosper

It means facing today’s economic crossroads and responding like Maine people always have – by working hard, finding creative solutions to difficult challenges, and protecting our natural resources and the quality of life they provide. It means recognizing that a vibrant economy for the 21st century is also a greener economy – one that builds on Maine’s traditional strengths while charting a course that the rest of the nation can follow.

vision-icon.png A Vision for a Greener Maine Economy

Maine is uniquely suited to be at the forefront of a new economic era. Maine’s competitive advantage is its environment, its people, and its quality of life. We can make Maine a leader in creating and sustaining jobs as part of a greener economy. In the process, we can create exciting opportunities for families and businesses across the state. Building on our existing capacity, we can forge a new economy which is powered by clean energy, homegrown innovation, and local education. Environmentally-friendly products, services, and recreation experiences will result in more jobs, healthier people, and prosperous communities for Maine.

today-icon.png Today in Maine

Today in Maine the economy is on everyone’s mind. How can we replace older jobs and create new ones that are safe, sustainable, and pay a living wage? How can we position Maine to recover from the recent recession and attain greater prosperity in the future? It’s no surprise then that Maine people are interested in exploring new economic opportunities. In a November 2009 survey of Maine people, 69% of respondents said it is important for Maine lawmakers to take action on building the green jobs sector of Maine’s economy.

Maine has many elements of a greener economy already in place. Today in Maine there are approximately 4,000 jobs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors, with expected growth of approximately 600 jobs per year for the next thirty years. Clean energy jobs have grown at a rate of 22.7% since 1998 – almost seven times faster than Maine’s overall job growth. Maine’s university and community college systems have laid the foundation for essential workforce development efforts, including alternative energy training, tourism research and outreach, and cutting edge research and development of bio-based chemicals and products.

Maine’s existing economic sectors are also a source of untapped potential. Maine’s forest-based industries are inextricably linked to Maine’s overall economy and quality of place. Tourism operators, forest products manufacturers, conservationists, and others have a shared interest in preserving and protecting Maine’s woods. The agricultural sector offers many opportunities for growth as well. Investments in Maine’s transportation and communications infrastructure and university and community college systems have the potential to position Maine businesses and workers to take advantage of new opportunities for a greener economy in the 21st century and beyond.

needed-icon.png What's Needed

EPC Report 2010 Jobs Economy 2Maine has the resources and the know-how to be an economic leader in the 21st century. In the next five years we need to chart a course that takes us solidly into the future, not trapped in old ways of doing business.

Building Maine’s new economy depends on our ability to create new jobs and replace older ones. We need a coordinated effort to engage Maine’s young people and those previously working in Maine’s more traditional manufacturing sectors. We need to keep them working in Maine, helping to preserve the land, water, and wildlife resources on which so much of Maine’s economy depends.

We need to increase our clean energy jobs that help us reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and lower the costs of power and transportation for families and businesses around the state. And we need more Maine workers earning a living from high quality jobs in the eco-tourism sector of our economy that provide world class experiences in our unique and historic landscapes. In each of Maine’s economic sectors, pursuit of value-added and sustainable production processes combined with a growing commitment to energy efficiency and the development of energy alternatives will be essential to Maine’s future growth.

Maine has an expanding research and development infrastructure that is already creating new opportunities for leadership. Maine needs to extend its investment in research designed to bring environmentally-friendly plant-based products into commercial production as replacements for those that rely on unsustainable and sometimes toxic ingredients. We need to seize the job-creation opportunities afforded by producer-financed collection and recycling programs for products that previously ended up in landfills. By working to turn today’s trash into tomorrow’s products, Maine can chart a course towards a sustainable zero-waste system, which means expanding our recycling, recycled-based manufacturing, and product re-use capacities in communities around the state. Maine’s farming opportunities for local healthy food continue to grow. Maine needs to increase its number of farming jobs and create a more favorable fiscal climate for new and existing farmers to expand healthy and sustainable production.

hiking-action-icon.png Take Action

In the next five years, there are specific actions Maine lawmakers can take to create new opportunities for Maine people and businesses to prosper.

Workforce Development

  • Fund programs that help pay for graduate education in order to incentivize Maine natives to return to the state and work
  • Fund green energy workforce development training in all education settings
  • Expand Maine’s broadband infrastructure
  • Create public-private partnerships to identify career paths, implement job training, and invest in hands-on conservation, eco-tourism, agriculture, and clean energy job creation, including establishment of a “Maine Conservation Corps” program to employ 1,000 high school graduates annually in 15-month public service jobs that earn college credits

Energy

  • Implement a pilot project in each of Maine’s six rim counties using a community-based model to achieve aggressive outcomes in energy efficiency and green community development

Tourism

  • Develop a statewide strategic plan to turn Maine into a certified eco-tourism destination using a coordinated, system-wide approach to marketing, workforce development, and landscape conservation
  • Fund investments in critical amenities, such as transportation, communications, “green” infrastructure, and downtown revitalization, that offer the greatest potential to boost tourism and improve quality of place
  • Collaborate with the Quality of Place Council to coordinate state-level amenity investments and tourism development efforts
  • Environmentally Friendly Production and Construction
  • Implement public-private efforts like the Keeping Maine’s Forest Economy Initiative to identify shared interests and secure support for preserving and enhancing new opportunities in Maine’s forest-based economy
  • Pass a new bond to increase Maine’s investment in green research and development
  • Designate two new products or product categories each year for producer-funded collection and recycling initiatives as part of Maine’s Product Stewardship Framework Law
  • Update government procurement policies to favor bio-based and recycled products
  • Require all new and newly renovated public spaces to follow green LEED certification standards

Agriculture

  • Create new private funding opportunities, such as a state bank and state-chartered investment funds, that assist new and existing farms by allowing Maine people to become investors
  • Assess the regulatory and finance challenges related to value-added production and local processing in Maine