June 20, 2018
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Portland chamber supports state’s new workforce investment plan

By Chris Hall, Acting CEO, Portland Regional Chamber

The Maine Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research and Information recently issued its Job Outlook to 2020, an analysis of expected gains and losses in the state’s various job sectors – coverage in Mainebiz. Data in the report is sortable so you can see where the greatest growth is anticipated, and where job losses are projected. The results may surprise you.

Of course none of this is written in stone – in fact closing the gap between existing workforce skills and what’s needed in our economy is a very hot topic. In response, the Maine Department of Labor is trying, for a second time, to restructure the state’s Workforce Investment Boards to help meet our economy’s needs ( PPH).

You can read about the DOL’s proposals in a recent press release, or visit their webpage for the full plan, an executive summary, and a YouTube video. In short the administration wants to make more effective use of money spent on workforce training, increase collaboration between employers and training providers, and better target training to workforce skills gap areas.

Local and regional Chambers of Commerce will be asked to play a new role by bringing employers together with training providers to make sure skills gaps are addressed. Existing Local Workforce Investment Boards will remain in place. Fred Webber, chair of the State Workforce Investment Board, described the need for restructuring. So did Labor Commissioner Jeanne Paquette.

The DOL is urging businesses to comment on the new plan for workforce development training by emailing SWIB.DOL@maine.gov no later than January 29. No need for a long essay; just let them know if you think they have a good idea, or a bad one.

From our perspective here at the Chamber the DOL is headed in the right direction. Any chance to better connect employers who have open jobs with the training needed to fill those jobs is worth pursuing.

Notable Read: Some days there’s just too much to read. If you only have time for one thing:

Last week I highlighted Chris Cousins’ excellent summary of the demographic, fiscal and performance issues facing K-12 education.

This week William C. Shuttleworth, a school superintendent for three decades, responds to Cousins’ article with five specific suggestions for lowering K-12 school costs. Mr. Shuttleworth’s proposals are well worth reading.

In the State House: Eliot Cutler took a first step toward running for Governor in 2014 ( PPH, BDN). A PPP poll came out at the same time ( MS, BDN) generating much comment from Ethan Strimling, Mike Tipping, Matt Gagnon, Dan Demeritt, Doug Rooks and Bill Nemitz.

The Governor had an unpleasant meeting with three House independent lawmakers ( BDN), producing comment from the PPH and BDN editors, along with Amy Fried.

Just in case you were wondering, lawmakers submitted 1,780 bills by the 1/21 deadline ( MPBN). Many more will be submitted before the session ends this summer.

The Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future was officially appointed last week ( BDN) – click here for the full list of members, including Sen. Richard Woodbury, Rep. Terry Morrison and Rep. Kimberly Monaghan-Derrig from our region. The Committee’s first meeting was Monday.

State Policy round-up:

  1. Ballot watch: Lawmakers from both parties are working together to propose a constitutional amendment in Maine to limit campaign funding ( BDN).
  2. Budget: Comment on the Governor’s proposed 2-year state budget continued to come in from Mike Tipping, Doug Rooks and the LSJ editors.

Hearings on the supplemental budget got underway last week ( MPBN), including worries that a cap on state aid for municipal general assistance will leave the needy lacking support ( PPH), school superintendents’ opposition to a proposed ‘push’ ( LSJ) and concern about moving casino revenue, earmarked for education, into the budget hole ( PPH).

The Governor used his Saturday radio message to say that his budget doesn’t force municipalities to raise property taxes, but rather that doing so was a choice ( BDN, audio included). Municipal reaction to the proposed cuts continued ( MPBN, LSJ).

  1. Bonds: Fitch Ratings downgraded Maine’s bond rating on the basis of several factors ( BDN).
  2. Economic Development: Alan Caron wrote about the way pessimism obstructs prosperity.
  3. Education: Maine high school graduation rates are on the increase ( MPBN). Teacher training in Maine got bad marks from a national survey ( BDN). The University of Maine System is dealing with flat funding in the current 2-year budget proposal ( BDN). Education policy comment last week included J. Scott Moody on customized learning, the PPH editors on the Governor’s 5th year of high school, and the LSJ editors on remediation rates ( PPH).
  4. Energy: Offshore wind power is coming to the Gulf of Maine after the PUC approved a project proposed by Norway’s Statoil ( PPH, BDN, MPBN). Comment from Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall, along with the PPH and BDN editors. ISO New England announced that New England electric power prices have dropped 23%, to 2003 levels ( PPH).
  5. Health Care: Several bills have been introduced to reexamine parts of PL 90, the 2011 Republican reform of state-level health care laws ( BDN), including a bill to reinstate rate reviews ( PPH) and an examination of the Board administering the state’s reinsurance plan ( PPH). Joel Allumbaugh wrote to caution against over-regulation of the health insurance market in Maine.
  6. Labor: The BDN editors urged a closer look towards hiring disabled workers.
  7. Real Estate: The Maine Real Estate and Development Association’s annual meeting was highlighted by indications that the region’s property sector may be headed up ( MPBN).
  8. Small Business: Secretary of State Matt Dunlap appointed Peggy Schaffer as the new Small Business Advocate ( BDN, PPH). State House Republicans didn’t like the pick ( BDN).
  9. Tax: Charles Lawton wrote about the case for local option taxes in light of the Governor’s proposal to suspend municipal revenue sharing.

Around the Region: The Town Managers of Cumberland, Falmouth and Yarmouth will be evaluating a proposal to extend natural gas into their region, potentially serving hundreds of businesses and thousands of residential customers ( PPH).

In Cape Elizabeth, the school system is planning for the upcoming state aid curtailment ( Forecaster).

In Cumberland, Jon Jennings has been appointed to an open Council seat ( Forecaster).

In Falmouth, the Route 1 improvement plan has been revised ( Forecaster).

In Gorham, Tom Harrison is the Director of the Gorham Economic Development Corporation. The GEDC has a handy One Stop Information System for anyone interested in investing in the community. Check it out.

In Portland, the Press Herald offered a series of stories on the Portland Fire Department, including examination of staffing levels, the cost of medical emergency response, the cost of 24-hour shifts, and an interactive comparison of Portland’s costs versus other New England communities. Elsewhere:

  1. Changes to the City’s Tax Increment Financing guidelines are making their way forward ( PPH, PDS);
  2. The Counsel sent an anti-tar sands proposal back to committee for additional study ( PPH, PDS, Forecaster) – the PPH editors commented and a large protest rally against tar sands was held on Saturday ( PPH); and
  3. 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, Pine Point Oysters is planning an expansion, with the Town’s help ( Current).

In South Portland, officials foresee a 5% property tax increase if the Governor’s proposed 2-year state budget becomes law ( BDN, Forecaster). The District 1 Council vacancy has attracted many candidates ( Forecaster).

In Westbrook, officials are expecting a difficult budget season ( Current).

Contact your local officials: Visit our website to find links to all your municipal and state house officials. Remember – if you don’t speak out, the people who represent you have no way to know what you think. So keep those email, calls and visits coming.

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

Partners for Progress Policy Updates from the Portland Regional Chamber are supported by generous contributions from our Partners for Progress. For more information about joining the Portland Regional Chamber just click here.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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