Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine
in support of LD 1698, Resolve, Directing the Maine Community College System To Promote Innovation and Growth in Rural Maine through the support of local and traditional industries
January 17, 2018
Senator Langley, Representative Kornfield and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, my name is Nancy Smith and I am the Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine.
We are a statewide non-partisan, non-profit, membership-based organization working to create lasting prosperity without sacrificing the quality of life that defines Maine.
Maine’s future lies in strengthening our economy in ways that build on without depleting our unique natural and built assets. The traditional sectors of farming, fishing, forestry and tourism are our heritage, and must be a part of our future. GrowSmart Maine recognizes two distinct and compatible economic strategies for Maine. First, to ensure place-based industries such as the natural resource sector can thrive. Secondly, to ensure that Maine offers the unique qualify of place sought out by those who can choose to live anywhere; and bring their work with them. These two sectors are quite compatible and we need them both if Maine is to thrive.
I was intrigued by the bill title which connects innovation with Maine’s traditional industries. Traditional and allied businesses need to be responsive and creative to survive and thrive. With the bill language now available, GrowSmart Maine supports the intent of the bill as well. There are those who want to make Maine their home. This includes people with family and history here, as well as those who are looking for safe, welcoming and vibrant way of life available here. The skills gap is a barrier to success for both the businesses and potential employees. In this bill, Rep Herbig is asking the Maine Community College System to investigate how to best address these gaps for traditional and allied professions in Waldo County. Boatbuilding is strong in this region and shows signs of additional growth, if the barrier of lack of qualified workers can be addressed.
This bill seeks a suite of options to address the skills gap for traditional industries; whether it be Maine Quality Center, long-distance learning centers and other collaborations. This creative approach is critical to success. While this bill focuses on Waldo County, perhaps this is a first step to address a need over many counties in Maine.
Though we are unable to attend today’s hearing, we look forward to working with the sponsor and committee in any way that would be helpful.