This article first appeared in The Maine Wire
Last week, the Bangor Daily News published an article titled: What stands out about LePage’s approach to the economy: A focus on industries of the past. To prove this, the author quotes the president of Envision Maine, Alan Caron, to gouge at Gov. Paul LePage’s economic wit, contending that Maine has had horrifying economic traction under LePage. The story also questioned his intentions for providing economic stability to our staple industries of fishing, forest products and agriculture, and mocked the governor’s economic ideologies.
But Envision Maine, a nonprofit organization that promotes their vision of Maine’s next economy, appears partial economically and partisan politically, making them no true authority on the topic.
Additionally, the article veers away from substantial policy debate for a meaningless endorsement of the national monument plan in the Katahdin region as a more viable opportunity of economic traction. You know — the same national monument plan shot down by voters throughout the region and denied by our state legislators for its inconsistencies and lack of relevant information.
However, many of the broad themes shared in the article concerning business in Maine is sound, and it’s true that our traditional industries are rapidly shrinking, most of which rely on our state’s natural resources. Paper mills are closing, people are losing their jobs, and additionally, it is adversely affecting our loggers and the forest products industry as a whole.
But, Maine’s economic reliance can shift away from these industries and modernize itself without leaving working Mainers in our staple industries out in the cold. Even though these sectors are declining, Maine’s current economic climate doesn’t support the creation of many of the types of jobs Caron envisions. If it did, they would already be here, but rather we see lagging economic growth in comparison to other states in New England and the rest of the country.
Maine’s extensive business and environmental regulations don’t just harm natural resource based economies, they harm everyone. As Maine continues its transition towards tourism and service-based economic activity, we can’t leave our staple industries behind, especially while they still provide such stability to a large portion of our state’s economy. The logging industry in Maine alone still contributes $7.5 billion to our economy annually.
Caron and organizations like his own would rather see Maine and the federal government further subsidize industries like wind and solar energy. If he could have his way, the government would begin dumping millions more of taxpayer dollars into companies like SunEdison — companies already destined to fail — as their economic stability lies in the hands of liberal lawmakers who offer their moronic version of sound energy policy, picking winners and losers through enhanced government subsidization.
Eventually the public funding runs dry or corruption runs amok, rarely are there success stories. But, organizations like Caron’s would surely succeed.
And so, LePage is not wrong in wanting to strengthen these industries, as you must work with what you’ve got. It should be government’s top priority to extend a stabilizing hand of economic security to every citizen, regardless of occupation. Maine doesn’t need to waste any more funding on failed voyages into industries that cannot stand up on their own without government subsidies.
It’s no news to anybody that in our new, globalized economy, traditional industries and manufacturing have been outsourced from Maine and the rest of the country. But, that’s no excuse to forget about the thousands of Mainers who depend on these well-paying jobs to survive.