Economic development plans in Maine, 1957-present

Posted July 17, 2013, at 1:06 p.m.
Last modified July 18, 2013, at 5:33 a.m.

Maine’s history of economic development efforts shows a number of initiatives have started, then changed in major ways or faded altogether based on funding and politics:

1957 — Democratic Gov. Edmund Muskie creates the Maine Guarantee Authority, responding to the loss of textile manufacturing jobs. The authority guarantees private loans to businesses as a way to grow businesses’ access to capital.

1968 — Democratic Gov. Kenneth Curtis and the Legislature create the State Planning Office and charge it with focusing on long-term economic, energy and natural resources policy. Curtis also creates the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

1978 — Independent Gov. James Longley’s administration creates the Maine Development Foundation as an independent, nonprofit corporation to work with government, business and nonprofit entities to promote long-term economic development. The foundation begins with $250,000 in state funding, matched by private funds. State funding disappears by 1994. Longley also renames DECD the State Development Office.

1983 — During Democratic Gov. Joseph Brennan’s administration, the Maine Guarantee Authority expands into the Finance Authority of Maine. FAME is tasked with “improving economic development strategies, policies, and activities, as well as securing loans and funding for Maine businesses,” according to its website.

1987 — Republican Gov. John McKernan proposes the Job Opportunity Zone program, which offers tax breaks to businesses that create jobs in areas with high unemployment. Lawmakers later defund the program.

1993 — During McKernan’s administration, the Legislature creates the Maine Economic Growth Council to develop a long-term economic strategy for the state and track its progress. While the plan didn’t materialize, the council does measure Maine economic benchmarks in its annual Measures of Growth report.

1995Maine & Company is formed by a group of business leaders in an effort to attract businesses to locate in Maine. State funding peaks in 1999 at $350,000 and evaporates after 2003.

1996 — The Maine International Trade Center is formed to help Maine businesses grow global trade. The center absorbs the Maine World Trade Association, which was formed in 1991 and sustained annual funding cuts. The trade center received one-time funds to open new offices, but its regular state funding stream has sustained cuts.

1999 — The Maine Downtown Center is established, charged with partnering with the DECD and the State Planning Office to work on the revitalization of downtown areas.

1999 — During independent Gov. Angus King’s administration, the Legislature creates the Maine Technology Institute to support private sector research and product development in Maine’s seven technology sectors: biotechnology, composites and advanced materials, environmental technologies, forest products and agriculture, information technology, marine technology and aquaculture, and precision manufacturing.

2004 — The Pine Tree Development Zone program, established under Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, offers a range of tax breaks to companies that set up shop in distressed areas. The program ultimately expands to cover almost the entire state.

2006 — The Brookings Institution releases Charting Maine’s Future, a comprehensive report that recommends “an action plan for promoting sustainable prosperity in Maine.”

2012 — The State Planning Office is disbanded after the Legislature approves a proposal from Gov. Paul LePage to farm out its functions to other state agencies and form the Office of Policy and Management to focus on state government operations.

Source: BDN Research

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