FocusMaine is now approaching the second year of a ten-year, private sector-led initiative to accelerate the creation of 20,000 quality jobs in Maine. The strategy includes investing in three of Maine’s most globally competitive and high-growth fields: agriculture, aquaculture, and biopharmaceuticals. These sectors are critical because they are strongly positioned to sell their goods and services outside the state thereby growing the market for Maine products, building on Maine’s assets, and responding to global consumer demand.
The strategy builds on Maine’s inherent assets such as its pristine ocean and extensive coastline, a growing food sector, and the proximity to major urban markets, including the rapidly growing biopharmaceutical market in Boston. Importantly, FocusMaine is centered on traded jobs (Traded jobs are defined as those that produce goods or services that are sold primarily outside of the state, a process which then increases wealth in the state.) because they generally have higher rates of full-time work, pay higher wages, and create, on average, an additional 1.6 new jobs in the local economy.
The implementation plan shares some commonalities across the three sectors—including business plan development, business acceleration support, and business recruitment. Through FocusMaine, for example, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Maine & Co., and the Maine Aquaculture Association are working together to identify and recruit new firms to Maine’s expanding aquaculture sector to help grow and diversify Maine’s production capacity.
In addition, FocusMaine is working with partners to support emerging and mid-sized businesses through an aquaculture-focused Top Gun program; a dedicated food, beverage and agriculture accelerator program; and a program to strengthen the value chain for promising Maine products. The Maine Center for Entrepreneurs’ Cultivator program, for example, is supporting nine diverse Maine food companies that are ready for second-level growth and have an interest in expanding their out-of-state market. Similarly, Coastal Enterprises, Inc. is examining opportunities across the value chain to grow Maine food businesses, beginning with potato rotational crops such as grains.
Complementary to all of FocusMaine’s efforts is ensuring that there is great talent to get the work done. Maine’s low unemployment numbers and shrinking labor force are daunting challenges to the state’s entrepreneurial future. With that in mind, FocusMaine’s strategy includes a FocusMaine Internship Experience that integrates professional development and networking into Maine summer internships for young people who are considering a career in Maine. Looking ahead, FocusMaine will build on existing efforts to attract and retain young people with the talent needed to help Maine grow in the future.
FocusMaine is the result of a collaboration between co-chairs Andrea Cianchette Maker, partner at Pierce Atwood, LLP, and Michael Dubyak, chairman of WEX, Inc., to change the trajectory for high-value jobs in Maine by expanding the market for Maine goods and services. FocusMaine is an initiative of the Foundation for a Strong Maine Economy. FocusMaine’s President Kimberly Hamilton, Ph.D. leads the effort in concert with a highly respected leadership team, advisory councils, and implementing partners.
FocusMaine is positioned for success largely due to its thoughtful and evidence-based planning process, the support of a wide-range of corporate and philanthropic investments, expert advice and guidance, and strong partners. You can read more about FocusMaine in the latest FocusMaine newsletter here. http://focusmaine.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/FocusMaine-June-Newsletter-FINAL.pdf