Statistics on Maine’s economy are concerning. Louisiana and Maine are the only two states whose economy shrunk in 2005. Maine’s businesses and citizens shoulder the heaviest tax burden in the country. More than 20 percent of Maine’s young adults left in the last decade.
Maine has the ability to reverse these trends. The shining star and the little economic engine that will lead the state to greater prosperity is Maine’s Small Businesses. Small businesses employ 65 percent of all Maine workers. Maine has many small business success stories and several have grown to be leading employers. In addition, there are many family-owned businesses that continue through the generations. Travel along your local Main Street and you will find many of these success stories.
Maine has over 140,000 small businesses according to the US Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. With this many firms, Maine’s economy hinges on the success of small and medium sized businesses. Plus, as investment in our future, we need to encourage young entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses in Maine.
How does Maine do this? We need new leadership from Augusta lawmakers to promote a more business-friendly environment in Maine. Maine’s business costs are high and regulations can be tough. Tax policies may be discouraging growth. Let’s consider the following ideas to encourage small business success:
. Provide affordable health insurance: Dirigo is not meeting the needs for all small businesses. One solution is to attract more health insurers back to Maine so employers have more options for their employees.
. Reduce the tax burden: Excessive taxes hold back business growth. A business owner told me that his property taxes have increased $15,000 over three years and without the increase he could have hired another person. Tax reform is needed to help businesses grow.
. Invest in technology: Technology is the new economic highway. Let’s improve broadband access in rural communities, invest in communications, and maintain a top technological infrastructure to promote e-commerce.
. Create stronger partnerships between businesses, schools and colleges: Educating our youth is critical. Small businesses need a skilled work force. Encouraging mentoring, internships and apprenticeships will help prepare young adults for a rewarding career in Maine after graduation.
. Encourage entrepreneurship: Expand resources available to start up businesses including: capital, training, marketing and networking.
. Streamline business regulations: Reduce paperwork and eliminate duplication.
During his administration, former Gov. Angus King encouraged small business owners to each hire one new employee. A more business-friendly state will help Maine’s 140,000 small businesses create those jobs. Maine’s entrepreneurs will start more new businesses. What a boost for Maine’s little economic engine! Maine’s little economic engine will get over the hill of poor economic trends. Maine’s little economic engine will say, “I think I can, I think I can … I know I can!
Jayne Crosby Giles is a candidate for state representative in House Seat 43 (Belfast, Belmont, and Northport). She is a community banker and resides in Belfast.