So no troubles, right? Well… kinda. Here’s something that worries me, and ought to worry all of us:
- Maine’s gross domestic product was flat from 2013 to 2014. From 2009 through 2014 the state GDP fell 1.2%, while New England grew 6% and the US grew 9%.
- Maine ranked 36th nationally in per-capita income (2015), and
- Maine ranks 50th nationally in value added per worker (2014).
Now some folks will say that Portland isn’t Maine, and that’s true. But two points need making.
First, when Maine fails, Portland fails. The City and the Region do not exist separately from the rest of the state. Our politics, our economy and our future are tied together, like it or not. So the sooner the state implements economic strategies that bring prosperity to all of Maine, the better. One place to do more is agricultural exports to Europe and China. Portland has the port, and rural Maine has the goods. There’s already excellent work being done, but we need to do much more to support rural communities through Portland’s assets.
Second, even in Portland we need more economic gains, and more good jobs. Bob Martin (who formerly led the Maine Technology Institute) made a good point in this week’s MaineBiz. He said we need a renewed focus on elevating successful new businesses into growth superstars. Kepware, Putney and Apothecary by Design are all recent success stories in the Portland area that represent the kind of economic innovation and achievement that can turn 20 jobs into 200 – and beyond – just as established companies like UNUM, WEX and IDEXX have done. Nothing beats a home town employer growing up with its own community.
Portland is a cool town, and we have the lists to prove it. But even in Portland we need the next generation of economic growth to make sure we have a secure future. And Maine needs our region to grow too, so that the entire state can overcome those scary Growth Council grades.