PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- It's been six years since the non-profit research group GrowSmart Maine has released a report analyzing the state of Maine's economy.
A lot has happened since 2006 including one of the worst economic downturns since the great depression.
Now, they've recently released a new report about what they've learned over the last few years in watching Maine's businesses battle through the tough times.
In 2006, GrowSmart released the Brookings Report calling "Charting Maine's Future." It outlined a 3-part strategy for promoting sustainable prosperity in the state, including: Investing in a place-based, innovation-focused economy... trimming government to invest in Maine's economy and to finance tax deductions... and supporting the revitalization of Maine's towns and cities, while channeling growth to reduce development on strain and rural lands.
So, what does this all mean? Zooming back into the first goal of an innovation-focused economy, one specific recommendation was to support a $200-million Maine Innovation Jobs Fund which supported job-creating research and development.
While a commission for this was never formed, GrowSmart members believe steps have gone forward.
Chairman of the GrowSmart Maine board says, "One of the things we learned in the original report was that the economy is changing, people can live anywhere and still do their jobs, so quality of place is really going to drive economic development more than before."
Maine has quality of place, so, he says, we need to focus in on that to drive more young people to move here.
Which leads to the next goal: streamlining government operations.
GrowSmart members have learned a lot from school consolidation.
Their original recommendation in 2006 was to fund the Efficient Delivery of Education Services, reduce K-12 administrative expenditures, and appoint a high-level school district reorganization committee.
Members say what actually happened was very different and caused a pushback throughout the state, although, per student, expenditures have been reduced by 9% through the consolidation process. For the future, though, they'd like to see a better long-term plan, maybe look outside the state for lessons from other school consolidations.
The final goal focused on the revitalization of Maine's towns and cities and investing in them.
GrowSmart members say the public needs to invest in their communities. They say Mainers are too cautious when it comes to investment, which may be why the state remains behind the rest of New England economically.
Board member, Bonita Pothier, offers examples like the Jackson Laboratory and the University of New England, in which community investment has made a world of a difference. She says, "I look at the work they're doing and at how maine people supported their efforts and provided funding for them, and we lead internationally in some efforts, and it's happening here in Maine; to me that's extraordinary."
Overall, the report shows Maine has a lot of growing to do, but has a lot of potential.