Bucking Maine’s Economic Forecast

Bucking Maine’s Economic Forecast

Maine’s economy is in for a long, long, slow recovery according to Charlie Colgan’s annual forecast. Professor Colgan, of the Muskie School of Public Service, began his annual road show with presentations in Portland and Lewiston this week. The opening slide of his presentation set the tone – Lucy once again snatching the football away from a trusting Charlie Brown. The message? Don’t get your hopes up, folks; external forces are impeding a quicker recovery which means Maine can expect to wait nearly eight years (2009-2016) to recover pre-recession rates of employment –barring any further surprises.

We’re not so pessimistic here at Clark Insurance. We believe the formula for growth and employment comes with Maine businesses extending their products and services beyond our borders. Instead of Charlie Brown being a victim of outside forces (like that scheming Lucy), he should take command of his destiny and find new friends.

Maine businesses can tap resources in state government,the federal government and the folks at the Maine International Trade Center to identify and enter new markets, both domestic and international. It takes some effort and the return may take time but the long term benefits will be worthwhile.

For example, Clark Insurance looked over the Maine border to see how the New Hampshire economy was faring – five years ago. We started with one employee working from his home. Today we have eight people and we’ve acquired an agency in the region that complements our growth objectives. That growth has meant hiring more people in Maine, as well. Clark Insurance now employs nearly 70 people in Maine.

A point made by Professor Colgan is that Maine is a good incubator but needs to concentrate resources on supporting businesses that want to grow to 50, 100 or 500 employees. Too often, Maine businesses grow organically only to find themselves looking out-of-state for buyers and rendering the Maine operations to be little more than branch offices. The profits that once stayed in the Maine economy now is working capital in some other state.

The exceptions, gratefully, are folks like WEX (Wright Express), LL Bean and IDEXX that have expanded both organically and through acquisition. Maine is their global headquarters for operations in the U.S., Brazil, Australia, New Zealand,Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

It is possible to dream andexecute.

When David Shaw began his quest to build IDEXX, he had a two-room office on Middle Street in Portland’s Old Port district and a vision of what his business could be. Wright Express began as a local coal and oil distributor on Park Avenue in Portland, and of course, we all know the LL Bean storied beginnings on Main Street in Freeport. There other less visible but no less exciting stories of home-grown success among Maine employers.

We believe that Maine business owners can emulate the great Wayne Gretzky, a hockey player who said, “skate where the puck is going, not to where it’s been”. For us in Maine, that means identifying and expanding our products and services – even if it means soliciting customers in another community or just across the border, in the mid-Atlantic , Canada, South America, Europe or Asia.

You can do it and we at Clark Insurance can help you manage the risk. Together, Maine business owners can move the numbers in the right direction.

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