Ask yourself: What can I do to help Maine?

Ask yourself: What can I do to help Maine?

Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great, advises organizations wishing to achieve world-class success to know and perfect what they can do best to the virtual exclusion of all others. Once that position of market dominance has been established, Collins says they need to innovate and continually re-energize their efforts to ensure momentum. So, what does Maine offer when it comes to making strategic investments that could achieve world-dominance?!?

Focus Maine has determined there are four “traded sectors” that potentially make Maine a leading center for high-value production: Agriculture, Aquaculture, Biopharmaceuticals and Knowledge Workers. The group defines “traded sectors” as being products and services sold outside the state that generate value-added wealth within the state through ownership, workforce compensation and additional job creation.

As explained on the FocusMaine web site, “Employment created in traded industries has a higher rate of full-time work and pay 50 percent higher wages than local jobs, and each new job in a traded industry creates, on average, an additional 1.6 new jobs in the local economy.”

For decades if not centuries, Maine has been an exporter of its natural resources; wood, granite, blueberries, potatoes, fish, etc. As noted by former Governor Angus King, however, “We should never send a fish out of state with its head on.” In other words, we need to transform our natural renewable resources to their end-use rather than shipping raw or partially processed materials for others to reap the intrinsic value through processing and manufacturing.

The state’s struggling paper industry is an example of high-value manufacturing taken through the intermediate stage of production. Rolls of paper have long been shipped to publishers across the nation. At one time, Maine also had a thriving end-product printing industry. While paper manufacturing remains a significant contributor to our economy, we have to cultivate other industries within the realm of renewable natural resources.

In addition, Maine’s fantastic quality of life is ripe for more businesses such as financial services titan WEX, veterinary products manufacturer IDEXX, bioengineering leader Jackson Laboratories and computer systems programmer KEPWARE Technologies. These employers could be anywhere in the world but they choose to be in Maine and compensate their talent with globally competitive compensation. We simply need more.

Enter Live+Work in Maine, an initiative that invites people interested in Maine to visit for a week, stay for a lifetime. Envisioned by Ed McKersie of Pro Search, a recruiting and staffing firm, this web site and campaign is a matchmaker for those with interest in and affinity toward Maine. “LiveandWorkinMaine.com was created to showcase Maine’s employment market to job seekers in Maine and throughout the country. While the website is a great resource for all Maine job seekers, it is designed to address the issues important to Maine’s future,” says McKersie.

A third leg to this employment picture is the Maine Community College System and University of Maine System. While Live+Work in Maine entices job seekers to connect with opportunities across the state, the university system is perhaps the best portal to attract a wide array of future employees seeking an outstanding and affordable education. With Maine’s university system rapidly integrating programs and services, a student from Utah or China can be sold on one of seven differentiated campuses with access across all academic disciplines within the state: “One University for Maine with a university for you.” Not only can the university provide the intellectual training, they can connect undergraduate and graduate students to internships and work-study programs. Those interns will be become employees, start families and grow jobs. We simply have to be intentional with our funding in both the private and public sectors.

It all starts with a vision for Maine and the self-interest we all share in a strong economy. Here are three concrete opportunities for moving the needle while the economy grows. It is time, however, to lend a hand and say “What can I do to help?”

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