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Governor’s Address: It’s time to develop a long-term strategy to move our state’s economy forward

Campaigning across the State of Maine last year, I visited a lot of towns like Madison, Millinocket, Old Town, and Bucksport – towns that have lost paper mills over the last decade.

While most of these mills are still idle, some towns are actually finding new life. I’m pleased that, just this week, our Administration welcomed a new business to Bucksport, where one company is moving forward with a $250 million salmon farm near the site of the old mill.

Our heritage industries – farming, fishing, and forestry – are adapting and diversifying with a changing economy. Our small businesses, from Kittery to Fort Kent, are innovating and engaging in exciting new work.

One business I visited is reclaiming sunken logs from Penobscot County lakes, some of which had been there since the Civil War, and turning those logs into beautiful furniture you can’t find anywhere else in this country. That business is just one example of how Maine people in regions across our state are using their skills, resources, and ingenuity to succeed.

I think it’s time for state government to do its part to develop a diverse and sustainable economy that supports these new ideas and makes it possible for every person to live and work at a good-paying job here in the state they love.

Ten years ago, who would have thought that Maine would be the craft brewery capital of the country? Who would have thought that Portland, Maine would become the “foodie central” of the Northeast or that two of the nation’s 40 best restaurants would be located in Biddeford? 

That may not strike you as economic development – but it really is. From salmon farms and flourishing kelp and oyster industries to young families moving here to take over the family farm, there is economic development happening every day in every region of our state. 

But some of that economic development has been piecemeal, fragmented, a little short-term. Businesses need stability and certainty to invest here. It’s time to develop a long-term economic development strategy that involves both private and public sectors and creates the stability that businesses need while addressing the needs of the entire state to move our economy forward.

That’s why this week I directed the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, led by Commissioner Heather Johnson, to work with other government agencies, business leaders, and private organizations to develop a ten-year strategic economic development plan for the State of Maine.

Over the summer, the Department will host a series of regional meetings to get the input of business and municipal leaders and members of the public, including some of you reading this. Together, we will craft a ten-year plan that drives economic growth, addresses our workforce challenges, and results in a strong, sustainable, and diverse economy.

I want to see real action, not just talk. I expect the economic development plan on my desk by fall so that we can all get to work with the Legislature to implement it.

It’s time to expand our economic development vision and build upon what’s happening here in Maine right now to identify ways we can do a better job to strengthen our economy and mobilize our state to work together to achieve these goals.

I hope that you will be a part of these efforts and that you’ll share your ideas in the months ahead so we can create a diverse and sustainable economy and a brighter future for our state.

Thank you.

Janet Mills


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