May 26, 2020
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Health care think tank touts business database

BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Heritage Policy Center’s chief economist this week launched a 12-part series on business trends in Maine by introducing a database that he said is the equivalent of a business sector census.

At a luncheon in Bangor on Wednesday, Scott Moody said the National Establishment Time-Series — or NETS — Database is an expensive but powerful business-tracking tool that analyzes statewide data dating to 1990.

MHPC recently signed on to receive the database, and Moody has been using it to identify trends and warning signs in Maine’s economy.

From 1990 through 2008, he said, 161,351 commercial, not-for-profit and government establishments reported data collected by NETS. In 2008, approximately half (84,326) of those establishments still existed. The rest, he said, closed, moved out of state or consolidated.

The real question, though, is why?

“As with a lot of economic indicators, causation is difficult to pinpoint,” he said. “I don’t have the answer.”

The Maine Heritage Policy Center is a conservative-leaning public policy think tank in Portland that espouses free market principles, limited government and individual freedom. Most of the attendees at Wednesday’s lunch seminar seemed to share those principles.

Another economic indicator that Moody focused on heavily Wednesday was the phenomenon known as “demographic winter.” Essentially, it’s a point when the birth rates stop outpacing the rate of death, resulting in a leveling off of the population — and the state’s work force.

From July 2000 through July 2008, Maine saw its under-18 age group decrease by 26,000. During that same period, the 25-to-44 age group lost nearly 38,000. On a positive note, Moody said, the 45-to-64 age bracket gained nearly 80,000 people during that eight-year period. However, those people are not having children.

Maine still brings in people from neighboring states, mostly Massachusetts, but Maine also has been losing residents at a steady clip to warmer states like Florida, North Carolina and Arizona.

As the year continues, Moody and the Maine Heritage Policy Center plan to continue rolling out parts of the Maine Business InsideOut series and highlighting NETS data. The group’s goal is to suggest public policy alternatives at the legislative level.

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