Richardson touts jobs in race for governor

Posted April 21, 2010, at 8:47 p.m.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — John Richardson, a former economic development commissioner seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, unveiled a jobs proposal Wednesday focused on investing in innovation, building Maine’s “green” economy and eliminating government obstacles to job creation.

Richardson, of Brunswick, said he believes his past roles as commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development as well as speaker of the House in the Legislature give him the experience needed to help remake Maine’s economy.

“I’m running for governor because I’m the only candidate who has helped to create jobs in a difficult economy and in every sector of this state,” Richardson said at a news conference held at Harbor Technologies, a marine composites company.

Under a proposal dubbed “Start Up Maine,” Richardson said that, if elected, he would begin by consolidating Maine’s economic development agencies into a state Department of Commerce and creating a “small-business advocate” within the Governor’s Office. Those steps, which would be implemented within 45 days of taking office, would help reduce the red tape that discourages business growth in the state, he said.

Richardson’s long-term strategies include annual investments of $45 million from the General Fund and $25 million in bonds in Maine’s research and development sector and in innovative companies.

He also proposed that the state issue $25 million in bonds annually for preserving or redeveloping downtown areas and that the state invest $5 million annually in marketing campaigns to attract new businesses to Maine. A key focus of any recruitment should be technology and renewable energy firms, he said.

In the area of streamlining government, Richardson said, his administration would explore options for restructuring the corporate tax rate in a way that reduces the complexity for businesses without reducing tax revenue flowing to the state.

He called for a “Lean Management Initiative” to identify efficiencies in state government and reducing the number of Cabinet-level agencies within the administration.

He forecast his plan would “transform the state of Maine and move it into the 21st century,” creating long-term jobs. As for how the initiatives would be paid for, Richardson said he is counting on savings from government efficiency and stronger revenue flows into state coffers once the economy recovers.

“I am an optimist,” Richardson said. “I believe in the Maine economy, and I know it will rebound.”

Richardson is the latest gubernatorial hopeful to announce an economic development plan during a campaign in which job creation has become a paramount issue.

The other four Democrats in the June 8 primary — Rosa Scarcelli, Steven Rowe, Pat McGowan and Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell — likely will take issue with Richardson’s assertion that he is the only candidate to deal with tough budget decisions and to create jobs statewide.

McGowan, who plans to unveil his own jobs plan today in Bangor, is a former legislator and regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration. Mitchell has served as Senate president during two legislative sessions in which the state budget was reduced by roughly $800 million.

Before serving as Maine’s attorney general, Rowe earned a Master of Business Administration and spent more than 16 years in the semiconductor and insurance industries in Maine. Scarcelli runs a statewide affordable-housing company with more than 100 employees.

Richardson is among three Democrats and one Republican who filed paperwork and donations to qualify for public campaign financing through the voter-approved Maine Clean Election Act.

He is the only candidate, however, who has not yet been certified to participate in the program. Elections officials say they are still reviewing Richardson’s documents and are likely to issue a decision later this week.

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