Business and Community Leaders Speak in Favor of Committee on Maine's Workforce and Economic Future
Democratic leaders name committee members, outline committee work
AUGUSTA–This morning, in a press conference at the State House, business and community leaders spoke in favor of the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future. The committee will produce specific legislation investing in Maine people, places, and businesses to grow our economy both today and tomorrow.
While much of the country has begun to emerge from the recession, Maine lags behind. Maine ranks 45th in job creation, and more than 50,000 Mainers remain unemployed.
“Workforce development is an issue, unlike many I’ve seen in my experience, that is universally accepted as a priority,” said Dana Connors, President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “Developing our workforce to address the skills gap will benefits us today, and in the future.”
According to a recent study, between now and 2018, 4,000 jobs in Maine will remain unfilled because of the skills gap. Committee members will explore options to coordinate current efforts to help Maine people get the skills that Maine businesses need to grow.
“Maine has provided strong support for start-up tech companies,” said Susan Mackay, CEO of Cerahelix of Orono. “Now it’s time to provide support for growing small businesses looking to expand.”
Cerahelix is a cleantech company working to develop a filter that can lower energy costs for a variety of industries. It employs six people at its facility in Orono, and has seen its business grow as result of both its relationship with the university and federal research and development investments.
“We know Maine small businesses need a healthy, stable business climate in order to hire, invest and expand,” said Rep. Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham), House Chair of the Workforce and Economic Future Committee. “The committee will will explore specific ways to lower small businesses’ costs and help them compete in today’s economy.”
In Maine, 95% of all businesses employ fewer than 50 people.
“We all know we need to invest in people and businesses, but we also need to invest in places. Community centers like main streets and downtowns are essential to creating jobs,” said Senator Seth Goodall (D-Richmond), the Senate Chair of the Workforce and Economic Future Committee.
Jennifer Geiger, Director of Main Street Bath, spoke about her organization’s success revitalizing downtown Bath. “I have seen firsthand how the investment of time, energy, and capital in downtown Bath has helped our small independent businesses to get a foothold and flourish,” said Geiger. “I am delighted that this committee, formed to help get our economy growing again, is including investment in places like Maine’s downtowns and Main Streets in its plans.”
The committee, officially established last week by a Joint Order in the Maine Legislature, will first meet on Monday, January 28. The committee will be briefed by economists and industry leaders at its first meeting.
Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Portland) and House Speaker Mark Eves (D-North Berwick) also announced members of the committee at the press conference. A full list of committee members is below.
[Photos of the press conference and speakers are available for download by clicking here.]
- Senator Seth Goodall (D-Richmond)
- Rep. Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham)
- Senator Roger Katz (R-Augusta)
- Senator Brian Langley (R-Ellsworth)
- Senator Linda Valentino (D-Saco)
- Senator Richard Woodbury (U-Yarmouth)
- Rep. Paul Bennett (R-Kennebunk)
- Rep. Paul Gilbert (D-Jay)
- Rep. Gay Grant (D-Gardiner)
- Rep. Peter Johnson (R-Greenville)
- Rep. Joyce Maker (R-Calais)
- Rep. Anne-Marie Mastraccio (D-Sanford)
- Rep. Kim Monaghan-Derrig (D-Cape Elizabeth)
- Rep. Terry Morrison (D-South Portland)
- Rep. Jeffrey Timberlake (R-Turner)