For the last few weeks, I’ve awakened every morning to the national newscasts and heard the latest information on the Occupy movement. From Wall Street to Main Street, the movement has expressed its message. I get it.
Opportunities to make financial gains have not been distributed fairly during the past few decades. I’ve seen the statistics that more people are below the poverty level, and that the earnings of the middle class have not risen to a corresponding level of the more affluent. I fully understand the frustration and concern that comes with lessening purchasing power when costs are increasing.
As I leave home in the morning and see the tents and the protest signs in my own town’s library and park, I ask myself whether this effort is building new capacity of private investment and an increased number of private sector jobs? Is it helping to solve the very concern the participants are bringing attention to?
The Occupy agenda is clear. But from an economic development perspective, we need to remember that in Maine we want our businesses to succeed. Maine has more than 147,000 small businesses and very few large businesses. Furthermore, 40,000 of the small businesses employ more than 290,000 of our friends and neighbors. Their contribution is critical to Maine’s economic health and well-being.
Small businesses in our communities support most of our region’s community institutions. Whether it’s the Little League team or the newest arts and culture exhibit, small business provides the financial support and appropriate leadership to make things happen.
Many of us go to work every day to fulfill a responsibility and to use the skills that we acquire from education and experience. We are so proud when we get our first job. We take great pride in recognizing the best places to work in Maine. We are committed to the sales and manufacturing of products, providing services that each of us find valuable. Maine people do work, work hard and fulfill their responsibilities as a work force. Maine people also manage businesses in an ethical and responsible manner.
Maine small businesses support and build our communities.
As Thanksgiving approaches and we begin to reflect on the many blessings we have, let’s remember those among us who have not benefited in the same ways. But, let us also be grateful and appreciative for the businesses that often struggle to be successful. For the businesses that do succeed in providing jobs, and a paycheck, to so many Maine residents.
Michael W. Aube is president of Eastern Maine Development Corp. in Bangor. He is a past commissioner of Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development and former state director of Maine USDA Rural Development.