Make change to make progress on jobs in Maine

Posted Nov. 07, 2011, at 5:26 p.m.

Gov. Paul LePage focused on jobs in Maine in a recent radio address. In particular, he focused on the top problems preventing job creation in our state and potential solutions or paths to finding solutions. It is our top issue in Maine and deserves immediate attention.

He also pointed out we are getting a great deal of bad news about lost jobs in our region and state. I will add that we face major risks of more losses. And furthering the problem, we lack the ability to rapidly create viable opportunities.

At this point our state’s major news on job creation is derived from new gambling facilities — not a jobs strategy we want to bank on for sustained economic viability.

So what do we do?

First we address the major socioeconomic challenges facing us today, which include:

Reinvigorating our spirit to work hard and educate. Mainers once were known for their work ethic and grittiness. Today we are branded a welfare haven and the statistics for our state and region support that branding.

Immediate curtailment of major welfare programs. Pain today for success tomorrow. The only way to renew our spirit to work is to make that work a necessity for survival. Our work ethic has been overrun by easy paychecks and an imbalance in the system where staying home pays better than working.

Education. Our learning institutions need to be training and educating for the jobs available in Maine and not what is unavailable. This is not as big of a problem to correct as some administrators and educators may claim. And I’ll point out that many making these claims are the same folks earning six-figure benefit packages and justifying those wages as required to “attracting” talent to the public sector. I’ll assume that since we are paying them these wages then we have the talent — I simply challenge them to make it happen.

Tax and regulation policy change. This is paramount to the attraction of business to Maine. In particular, the Bangor market possesses a tremendous opportunity to attract technology and research and development business ventures. Bangor has the right mix of social justifications for bringing a technology think tank to the area but lacks tax and regulation policy to support a move from the business aspect. It can be improved. Again, claims that it is difficult can only be the result of those preferring things as they are or those unwilling to put in the effort to make the change. In either case, it is time for new leadership.

Energy costs. I am confident that with appropriate policy change and implementation of existing, improved energy systems such as heat pumps, nonmanufacturing businesses easily can overcome the energy cost problem. It’s just another reason Bangor is an attractive location for technology and R&D businesses. Longer term energy policy will need to change in order to attract manufacturing at any scale. At this time the economics are tough to justify when comparing the mid-Atlantic, South or West.

Accept the realities of our new world. We no longer make shoes. We let ourselves get beat by the Scandinavians and others in paper production and our fishing industry faces diminishing resources. We can’t live on tourism and gambling won’t save us.

Once we decide to address these problems and a few more, we can have a serious discussion about attracting ventures to Maine and what I call the potential “Bangor Technology Center.” We don’t have to let it all go to the 128 region in Massachusetts.

Joshua Hayward has worked as a financial strategist for 19 years and can be heard Monday mornings at 7 on the George Hale & Ric Tyler Show, 103.9 FM Bangor, 101.3 FM Augusta. He can be reached at jshayward12@gmail.com.

Editor’s note: The Bangor Daily News welcomes submissions for business columns. They should be 650-850 words, and should be unique to the BDN and pertinent to the Maine business community. Columns, a head and shoulder shot and a short bio can be sent to business@bangordailynews.com.

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