Transcript – “Charting Maine’s Future – Making Headway”, Nancy Smith. Summit 2012. October 23, 2012

I want to begin by thanking the funders who made this effort possible:  
The Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust, Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, Daniel Hildreth, Horizon Foundation, Inc., L.L. Bean, Inc., The Emanuel & Pauline A. Lerner Foundation, The Nature Conservancy in Maine, Anna Marie and John Thron, and Verrill Dana LLP

Also to recognize Craig Freshley and Kerri Sands of Good Group Decisions, Peter Weed of Hutchins Weed and Teague Morris in working with GrowSmart Maine staff, board and our advisory team to create this update to Charting Maine’s Future.

Do you remember the original report in 2006?  I still have my dog-eared copy.  It’s not the report that matters, this isn’t about the report. It is about the actions inspired and the energy created.  It’s about the collective impact of all efforts.

I’ll offer my perspective: in 2006, when Charting Maine’s Future was released, I’d left my forestry career for full-time farming and was serving in Legislature as House Chair of the committee on Business, Research, and Economic Development.  Charting Maine’s Future was exciting because it put all the pieces together.  It wasn’t so much about new information, there were many efforts were underway. It was the bold initiatives and making the connections between work in our downtowns, rural areas, and investments in innovation for targeted sectors where Maine has competitive edge.

Why did GrowSmart Maine take up the challenge to create Charting Maine’s Future in the first place?  We realized we had to reach beyond our core of smart growth to address real concerns about the economy.  When people are concerned for their jobs, their kids’ jobs, worried about the future – they are not interested in thoughtful long range planning.  Strengthening the economy has to be a part of any effort to protect our communities and natural, working landscapes that make this Maine.

Why GrowSmart Maine created Charting Maine’s Future – Making Headway.
In our role as stewards of the report, champions of the Action Plan, we knew we needed to take a look back, so we all can refocus and move forward.  Our goal has been to EMPOWER MAINERS TO KEEP GOING.   There ARE good things happening!

We often hear The Silo Analogy; that we all work out there in our own silos, separate from everyone else.  I want to tell you; that is not a bad thing.  That’s where the work gets done!

What’s often missing, to continue the farm analogy, is the mixer wagon:  a way of combining all the components to ensure the healthiest and most productive herd possible.
That is GrowSmart Maine’s primary role and what we’re doing here today:  combining the efforts and the successes, to ensure Maine is as productive as possible.

We gather these stories and available information, in order to measure the impact of work being done across the state.  There were nearly 70 interviews, where we asked, “What worked, what didn’t, why?  And what are the essential next steps.”  

People really connected with the concept of “why it worked”, and were most eager to talk about when things went well.

We also conducted a review of existing research:   it doesn’t exist in easy accessible form.  This Data will evolve.

I also want to point out the tone of the report.  It is optimistic and energetic.  We could have focused on setbacks and tensions, but instead gathered energy from the successes. If we want to inspire you, give you space to inspire each other, it had to be this way.
How Making Headway Ties in with the Summit
The same issues in Making Headway are addressed today, in the keynotes from Bruce and Evan, the string of four short films and the 20 breakout sessions.  This Summit is about Charting Maine’s Future and smart growth.

The same kind of outreach was used.  We sought out those who are making a difference across the state:  70 for the report, seven people tell their stories in four films and over 400 here today.
People are here today from the private sector, from Maine municipalities, legislators, members of the Administration, quasi-governmental agencies, regional planning entities, federal agencies, all five Maine’s Native Tribes, philanthropy, individual citizens, and non-profits like GrowSmart Maine.

All perspectives matter.   And the answers, the strategies, come when we work together.

In the Introduction of Charting Maine’s Future – Making Headway, we note that this is not THE strategic plan for Maine.   We also need equally powerful efforts related to education and workforce training, healthcare costs, and energy costs and production.

Given that, what do you love about this place?
The definition of quality places and the vision for the future should be come from within each community.  THEN we work together:  How do we improve the economy, increase per capita incomes, building on that foundation, rather than tearing those things down.  THAT, in the end, defines sustainable prosperity

One of the surprises, for those of us who created this update, is the significance of lessons learned.  We found that the Lessons Learned component of Making Headway is as valuable, if not more so, than actual measure of impact so far, because it provides strategies for moving forward.

Lessons 1 and 2 speak to the collaborative efforts that rely on grassroots support and the need to fund incentives for pilot projects to encourage early attempts.

People gain courage when they see repetitive successes around them.

Mainers are like people everywhere:   most of us are cautious and will accept change ONLY when it is more uncomfortable to stay the same.  That’s not a criticism, because this is actually a pretty effective survival technique.  Maine’s cold winters are not a time to get creative….until you have to.

We are as curious and as kind as any other group of people, but we proceed cautiously.  This rift, “the two Maines” and all the other ways we define ourselves by our differences, does not serve any Mainer well.    

Conversations Matter.  I saw this clearly in meetings about a year ago in a scenic coastal town.  When you hear that “summer people” are concerned that their children will not be able to enjoy this family tradition of summering in Maine, you realize they are indeed facing the same challenge as the Mainers who live in these communities year round.  How do we keep what we love about this place while ensuring we can pass on our heritage to our children?

There is no more powerful connection than that.   No better foundation for conversations that can lead to a plan    and then to action.

In the final two lessons learned we see a need to create our own balance, acknowledging our careful nature, but also the need for well-placed boldness.
In regulations and investments, predictable means effective.  At whatever level we are prepared to support, Mainers must be willing to match private and non-profit sector investments, and to offer consistent and reasonable regulations that create a level of trust essential to growth.

Key Recommendations:  
 Making Headway provides an update on action and a success highlighted for each action item.  There are eleven such success stories in the document and four more in the short films premiering here today.  Judy East, Executive Director of the Washington County Council of Governments and a member of our Making Headway Advisory Council, said at press conference where we released this update, these success stories are just touching the surface of all the good things happening across the state.

Investments in Maine’s Quality Places:  
In this category, we have a clear win.  Land for Maine’s Future was frequently cited in our interviews as one of the most effective ways we improve, protect and promote quality of place:  Here are the RESULTS since 2006:  250,000 acres of working forests, 1,150 miles of shoreline, 15,000 acres deeryards,
29 working farms, 17 working waterfronts, 24 parks and wilderness management areas,  50 water-access sites and 158 miles of snowmobile trails.  I encourage you to Vote on November 6th to continue consistent investment in this program.

In addition, there are many other successes, including the Penobscot River Restoration Project and permanent conservation easements that is part of the Plum Creek Moosehead Lake development plan, placing 363,000 acres permanently out of reach of development.

Revitalization of Maine’s Cities and Towns
Charting Maine’s Future said we should provide adequate funds for towns and cities to shape their futures.  This means investments in quality built places, developing strategic policies and providing planning resources.

There are solid wins with statewide policy, programs and resources: the Historic Preservation Tax Credit and the Maine Downtown Center are just two.  We must continue to support these initiatives because of their impact. Their payback is significant.  You’ll find these in today’s breakout sessions.

Planning:  regional initiatives include Maine Partnerships for Sustainable Communities.  With GroWashington-Aroostook, these two counties are working together to develop a comprehensive connection as they plan for their future in transportation, economic development, housing and more.    Sustain Southern Maine is doing the same for most of Cumberland and York Counties. This is the first time three federal agencies have created and encouraged collaboration:  HUD, DOT and the Dept. of Energy.  This too is the subject of one of our breakout sessions today.

At the state level, capacity for community planning has been reduced year after year since 2006.  We need to encourage leaders to see that investments in revitalizing our communities as an essential component of a solid economic strategy.

Look at the diversity of sectors shown in the photos.
Value-added food production:  Skowhegan Food Hub, the Kneading Conference:  Amber Lambke is speaking in an afternoon session.
Traditional manufacturing:  a shoe shop that transformed itself to a specialty footwear producer.   Falcon Precision Footwear is the subject of one of the films premiering today.
High tech:  Bigelow Labs is expanding in Boothbay Harbor.

Maine Technology Institute has helped in all of these cases, and is highlighted in one of our afternoon sessions.  The key is to focus where we have competitive advantage and have or can build the essential infrastructure to support that business sector.

Charting Maine’s Future recognized the value of existing efforts and encouraged more.  It encouraged us to be bolder.  There is one correction:  the Dept. of Economic and Community Development did not eliminate the Office of Innovation, as we were told in numerous interviews.  Although that was the perception, in reality the Director position incorporated into the role of existing staff.

The repeal of 2012 R&D bond was a clear, significant disappointment to many of us in this room, but I’ve been told the administration is now focusing on research and development as an economic driver, with new head of MTI, Robert Martin, attending today.   There is excellent work to build on here.

Government Efficiency and Tax Reduction/Reform
We see mixed results here as well.  Tax reform with much of what was recommended in Charting Maine’s Future was passed in 2009, only to be overturned by referendum later that year.   Tax reductions are occurring:  As of 2009, Maine’s overall tax burden is dropping, and income tax reductions passed by the 125th Legislature are set to begin 2013.  There is concern that, in isolation, income tax cuts without broader tax reform may indirectly impact property taxes by crowding out municipal and school funding from state resources.

Consolidation of school administration was implemented very differently than the pilot project approach envisioned in Charting Maine’s Future and there has been significant pushback across the state.  However, per pupil expenditure on administrative costs has been reduced by 9%.

The Scorecard found at the front of Making Headway provides a status report on the effort at this time.  GrowSmart Maine will continue to highlight efforts and successes from across the state:  more convening, more advocacy, more of our own projects.

To that end, and to demonstrate with Bruce Katz referred to as “collaborating to compete” I’d ask you to welcome two friends who focus on different components of Charting Maine’s Future Action Plan to introduce their new initiatives.
Roxanne Elfin with Maine Downtown Center and Lynn Bromley, Small Business Advocate for New England Region, Small Business Administration

Roxanne described the Healthy Maine Streets Initiative:

  • $1,641 million two-year Community Transformation Grant (HHS/CDC) in partnership with MCD Public Health
  • 20 downtowns:  10 Main Street communities and 10 Downtown Network communities create local Wellness Councils
  • Helps small businesses develop effective, community-based worksite wellness programs
  • Training, assessing, planning, tracking and incentives provided
  • Result?  Healthier, more productive employees and communities!

Lynn discussed the SBA’s Office of Advocacy’s Innovation Initiative.  The SBA is the only part of federal government that is empowered by Congress to speak for small business.  We’re focusing on innovation, knowing the least innovative thing is usually government.  Innovation bubbles up, it does not come from the top down.  So it is vitally important that we engage with innovators in a discussion about what regulation will look like in the next fifty years, because the thing’s we’ll be regulating haven’t even been thought of yet.   Congratulations to GrowSmart Maine on producing an update to Charting Maine’s Future.  It is very unusual to get a progress report to the original roadmap.

Return to Nancy:  I want to draw your attention to the quote top of screen. It comes from one of our interviews and I really like it. “There isn’t a bold revolutionary vision in economic development.  This is a block and tackle event.”  This is going to be step by step, one notch at a time

So what do you love about this place?  How do we improve the economy, how do we increase per capita incomes, building on that foundation, rather than tearing those things down?  The definition of quality places and the vision should be defined from within each community.  A stronger economy comes from this foundation.  THAT is sustainable prosperity.

In Closing, I’ll ask you to keep a few points to keep in mind as we continue to make headway.

“The challenge for national and state policy makers is two-fold; to develop economic and growth policies that preserve the Maine experience and the second, most difficult hurdle, convince some Mainers to trust them.”
David Trahan, Executive Director
Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine

Elected officials can only go as far as those who elect them are prepared to go.
Making Headway, p. 7

“The world belongs to the collaborators.”
Senator Lynn Bromley

It frustrates me to hear “politicians lack the political will” to take on the tough issues.  When voters support elected officials who take the long view, they will do just that.  The comments above highlight the fact that this is a team event; businesses and elected officials, tribal leaders, government employees, the public and non-profits.  We’re all in this, together.

As you go to breakout sessions, please know that our goal with the Summit and Making Headway is to inspire and empower more action, to highlight the collective impact of all efforts.

Take a look at the challenge statements addressed in the breakout sessions.  How do they strike you?  Which ones appeal to you or draw you in?  And what’s your response?
We’ll see you back here at noon for lunch and networking.
Thank you.