GrowSmart Maine testifies in support of LD 367 “An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Government Oversight Committee To Develop a Long-range Strategic Plan for Economic Improvement in the State”

Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine, in support of LD 367 “An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Government
Oversight Committee To Develop a Long-range Strategic Plan for
Economic Improvement in the State”
April 26, 2017

Senator Volk, Representative Fecteau and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development, my name is Nancy Smith, I live in Monmouth and I am the Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine. We are a statewide non-partisan, membership-based organization whose mission is to create lasting prosperity without sacrificing the quality of life that defines Maine.

In our advocacy, we support legislation that improves Maine’s economy, protects its distinctive character, strengthens communities and enhances our state’s quality places. In short, we support long term solutions over short term fixes. We believe this bill makes significant headway in achieving these goals.

GrowSmart Maine strongly supports this bill because it re-affirms the value of the Maine Economic Growth Council while capitalizing on its potential to do even more. The language of the bill provides greater direction for the process of developing, monitoring and updating a strategic long-range economic plan for the state. During my tenure on the MEGC, while serving as House Chair of the BRED committee, I recall a frustration from within and outside the Council that our work was limited to simply reporting on progress toward the defined benchmarks, with little capacity to build on that by setting a direction for future efforts. The Measures of Growth annual report has great value in providing an opportunity for a review of progress to date, but with this bill, the Council can truly engage in Maine’s economic future.

Two points I would draw the committee members’ attention to. First is the lack of a specific listing of Maine’s natural resource sector as an area for specific consideration. Farming, fisheries and forestry could be addressed within in (f) Discrepancies in challenges and opportunities among different regions in the State; and (g) Opportunities and challenges for small businesses; but just as (b) The State’s evolving industrial base is worthy of a specific notation, I believe the natural resource sector is as well. This is not simply because of its significance in our heritage, but because of its potential for our future economic strength as well. Second is an absence of consideration of the potential impact climate change will have on our economy in the coming decades – as it will surely create both challenges and opportunities for Maine’s economy as more extreme weather events occur here and across the globe. Perhaps this, too, can be incorporated into the existing items listed, but I feel it is worthy of discussion.

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I am particularly pleased to see a recognition of the need for public input and transparency in the process. As we know from our public engagement work, building a sense of ownership and trust by the public is essential for a broad support for the outcomes. In addition, the call for nonpartisan appointments and public/private partnerships will lay the foundation for solid public support for the plans as they are presented.

I respectfully encourage the committee to support this legislation, and though I am unable to attend today’s hearing, I am happy to be of service as the committee considers this bill.