PRC SPEAKS OUT

Ways to look at Portland area’s share of Maine GDP

Posted Nov. 30, 2012, at 3:03 p.m.
Chris Hall, senior vice president for government relations, Portland Regional Chamber
Chris Hall, senior vice president for government relations, Portland Regional Chamber

You might have missed Whit Richardson’s article in the BDN last weekend — if you did I urge you to take the time to read “ Portland area now accounts for most of state’s economy.

That’s right — the Portland area, which includes York, Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties, now contains more than 50 percent of the state’s total gross domestic product and one-third of the state’s total number of jobs.

But before you break out the champagne, keep in mind that there are several ways to look at the region’s economic health.

One perspective comes from the national press. Our region has been winning accolades from many publications including Forbes, Kiplinger’s and Parents Magazine. It’s great publicity for the best the region offers.

Another look comes from comparing our region with similar places around the country. The Portland Community Chamber soon will release its annual scorecard detailing how we’re doing in that regard.

A third way to look at our region’s economic health is through national data which often suggest that our region still has challenges when competing across the country and the globe.

All of which is exactly why there are several efforts under way to make sure that we celebrate what’s best about our region’s economy while still working hard to build on our foundation to reach the next level of economic growth. The Greater Portland Economic Development Corp., the Portland Community Chamber and Portland Mayor Michael Brennan’s new Growing Portland Collaborative are all helping to find the innovation, opportunity and regional strength to make sure that we remain prosperous and continue to grow. I’ll be sharing more about these and other regional initiatives in future updates.

Finally, a word about the rest of Maine. Our region cannot succeed on its own. As the article suggests, the rest of our state’s economy needs to grow, too, and we all will do well in 2013 to look for growth opportunities for every part of Maine, not just in our region.

Election follow-up

What a difference an election makes. Since our last update, the Maine House and Senate both have switched from Republican to Democratic control. New constitutional officers will be chosen by lawmakers next week. And new challenges face both parties as they swap roles from minority to majority.

For those of you who like analysis and comment, we’ve got a good selection of post-election writing from across the political spectrum:

• The PPH’s Colin Woodard looking at Republican losses.

Ethan Strimling and Phil Harriman doing the same.

George Smith’s advice to the new Republican minority.

Doug Rooks on Democratic leadership changes (and John Martin’s departure).

Dan Demeritt on the power of centrist Republicans.

Mike Cuzzi and Mike Tipping (in separate pieces) on why Democrats won.

Matt Gagnon on the Republican party’s future, and their path forward.

M.D. Harmon on election outcomes.

Mike Fink on local business reaction to U.S. Chamber PAC spending.

• The BDN’s Robert Long on what’s next for Maine Republicans.

Ben Grant on what “bipartisan” means to Democrats in 2013.

David Farmer on Maine’s political center.

• The PPH editors on the governor’s approach to the next session.

• The BDN editors on the same topic.

• The BDN editors’ benchmarks for success for the new Democratic majority.

Whit Richardson and Mal Leary both captured business reaction to the election results.

And of course, some folks already looking ahead at the 2014 elections, including the BDN’s Robert Long, the PPH’s Steve Mistler and George Smith, who has some advice about cleaning up the next election.

State policy round-up

Lawmakers convene the 126th Maine Legislature on Wednesday Dec. 5. New legislative leadership will be elected, constitutional officers will be chosen and the process of making legislative committee assignments will begin. We’ll all have a chance to meet newcomers and welcome back veterans.

At the regional level our Advocacy Grasstops committees will start meeting with local lawmakers soon to discuss community priorities. It ought to be an interesting year at the State House, to say the very least. Elsewhere:

Bonds: A delay in issuing a 2010 Land for Maine’s Future bond had the LMF Board looking to meet with the Governor ( PPH, BDN). The PPH and BDN editors both commented on issuance of the bond.

Budget: State budget revenues continue to run in the red ( BDN). Budget cuts are likely to come later this month ( PPH, BDN). $100 million in shortfalls comes from Maine DHHS ( PPH). Former state Sen. Richard Rosen has been named to lead the new governor’s Office of Policy and Management ( BDN). OPM is the successor to the defunct State Planning Office, with a new emphasis on smaller, more efficient government.

Economic Development: Charles Lawton wrote about Maine’s demographic challenges, as well as the important role that sole proprietors and other businesses without employees play in the Maine economy.

Education: The PPH editors looked ahead to state house debates on education policy in 2013. The governor had critical words for Maine public education ( BDN) — the BDN editors and Mike Tipping responded. State high school graduation rates are 10th best nationally ( PPH). The University of Maine system is still working on credit transfers ( BDN) — the BDN editors commented.

Correction: Last issue I reported that “a Fordham University report” assessed the relative strength of teachers’ unions, including Maine’s ( MW). The report was not released by Fordham University, but rather by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Energy: The governor continued to cite state renewable energy mandates as a reason for high Maine electric rates ( BDN). His opponents took issue with his facts ( PPH). The PPH editors commented.

Health Care: Gov. LePage ruled out a state operated health care exchange ( PPH, BDN, MPBN) — the LSJ editors agreed. Lawmakers could try to setup an exchange on their own ( BDN). State level health care reforms passed in 2011 by Republicans may be changed by the new Democratic majorities at the state house ( BDN, PPH). The Maine Chamber held a forum on the federal Affordable Care Act ( PPH, BDN). Maine hospitals got great marks in a national assessment of safety ( BDN).

Labor: Reps. Terry Hayes and Paul Gilbert called for the re-establishment of the Joint Standing Committee on Labor in the coming legislative session. Charles Lawton looked at the need for human capital in Maine’s economy.

Regulatory Reform: The state’s “Red Tape Hotline” has been a success, helping employers overcome regulatory problems ( BDN).

Small Business: Several local small business leaders had a chance to go to Washington D.C. to discuss their issues ( MaineBiz). Gov. LePage pledged his continuing support to small businesses ( BDN).

Tax: The debate around state income tax rate cuts, passed in 2011, has already begun ( LSJ, PPH).

Transportation: Chris Bradley and Doug Rooks each discussed revenues for road maintenance. The BDN editors celebrated the growth of the Downeaster.

Welfare Reform: USM’s David Wagner commented on the solutions to homelessness.

Around the Region

MERC’s pending closing has touched off debate about where the trash will go ( PPH, PPH). Renovations to the Cumberland County Civic Center are on track ( PPH). Elsewhere:

In Cape Elizabeth voters passed Charter changes but defeated a library bond ( PPH, Forecaster, Current). Library options will be reassessed ( PPH). All three incumbents won their school board races ( Forecaster). Elected officials discussed the upcoming session ( Forecaster).

In Cumberland the voters of North Yarmouth soundly defeated a proposal to leave SAD 51 ( Forecaster). Town Planner Carla Dixon looked at the past and the future of the town’s center ( Forecaster). Cumberland joined the ranks of certified “business friendly” communities ( BDN). The town will appoint someone to fill a vacant Council seat — applications are due by 12/6 ( Forecaster).

In Falmouth the Metro bus service survived ( PPH, Forecaster). Check out the Shop Falmouth weekend Dec. 7-9 ( Forecaster). Conversations about Falmouth’s business climate continued ( Forecaster). The Council adopted a compromised position on size limits along Route 1 for business tenant footprints, and more Route 1 work is coming ( Forecaster, PPH).

In Gorham the Council will have new faces after the election ( Current).

In Portland all three incumbent Councilors won re-election ( PPH, Forecaster). Two incumbents won re-election to the School Board, along with one newcomer ( Forecaster). Elsewhere:

• USM’s Dean Joe McDonnell praised Mayor Brennan’s innovative economy initiative.

• Homelessness remained a subject of debate before the Council ( PPH), and delivery of a task force report drew much testimony ( PPH, PDS, Forecaster, MPBN and comment from the PPH editors).

• $46 million dollars in school renovations are being proposed by the School Board ( PPH, BDN).

• The City is negotiating with EPA on water discharge violations ( PPH, PDS, Forecaster).

• The PPH editors commented on homelessness among veterans.

Jake Thomas and Phil Selberg had very different views on how to contain spending at the Portland Fire Department.

• New hotel growth in the City drew differing reactions ( PPH).

For the latest check out Chris O’Neil’s Inside City Hall.” Chris serves as a consultant to the Portland Community Chamber, working closely with members and staff to represent the Chamber before Portland City officials. “Inside City Hall” covers a host of Portland related issues. It’s something that everyone with an interest in Portland affairs will want to read.

In Scarborough the outcomes of Council and other races were covered in the Forecaster. The school board picked its leaders ( Forecaster). Floodplain rules are on hold ( Forecaster). New directional signage is on the way ( Current).

In South Portland voters chose a new councilor ( Forecaster, Current). Tom Blake was elected mayor ( Forecaster). The Council continued to debate investment in a new Public Works garage ( Current).

In Westbrook 10 changes to the City Charter won approval ( PPH, Current). Westbrook joined the ranks of certified “business friendly” communities ( BDN).

Want to speak out?

It’s easy to do, and believe it or not, it can really work. Notice that all the legislative committees mentioned above are linked — just click on them and you’ll get emails, phone numbers and everything you need to make your voice heard in the state house. If you need help, just email me!

Feedback

So what do you think? We’d love to have your thoughts on anything you’ve read here, or on other topics that are important to you. The more you talk to us, the better we’ll represent your views. Send an email if you’d like to share your feedback with me — and thank you!

Partners for Progress Policy Updates from the Portland Regional Chamber are supported by the generous contributions from our Partners for Progress. If you’d like to become a Partner, please contact Chamber CEO Godfrey Wood. And for more information about joining the Portland Regional Chamber — businesses building a better community — just click here.

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