I think Mainers are a pretty self-reliant lot. When adversity rears its head, most Mainers hunker down and figure out a way to meet the challenge. That was certainly borne out during the '98 Ice Storm when life went on — pretty much as usual — despite a power outage that lasted weeks in some parts of the state.
It's also the reason I find our lack of control over international economic factors the most unsettling part of the 2012 economic forecast we feature on our cover, "5 on the Future." To a person, our experts cited the European economic crisis as the determining factor in whether Maine will undergo another recession.
Geesh. How can the average small business owner in Maine, or someone in the executive suite of a Portland-based company, influence whether Europe's economy spirals out of control, and how the heck do you prepare your company for the consequences if it does?
It's a none-too-subtle reminder that we are truly doing business in a global economy. If Europe falls into a recession, our exports will suffer (Europe accounts for 22% of the United States' export market) and our dollar will gain strength against the euro. That will further erode our trade position and affect exports, which will chill the economy within our borders.
It's not like Mainers to sit on the sidelines and watch the play unfold, but that's where we find ourselves. Oil prices, the European debt crisis, interest rates — they will all have a hand in how we do business in 2012, yet we won't have much of a hand in their determination.
On the upside, we can lobby our congressional delegation to best represent Maine's interests when Congress reconvenes this month. Their response to the Super Committee's failure to identify a deficit-reduction plan has enormous implications for us all. It's never been easier to make your opinions known — call, write, email, post on Facebook, show up at one of the many events our congressional reps will attend during the winter recess.
While you're stumping, you might turn your attention toward Augusta. Legislators have already reconvened the second session of the 125th Legislature. Politics is the bread and butter of the state capital, but it's not the only thing generating news. The city is embarking on a plan to revitalize a two-mile swath along the Kennebec to redevelop properties, including the former American Tissue Mill site, a project laid out in, "Due east," starting on the cover and part of our focus on Augusta and Waterville. We also talk to folks about what's likely ahead for the Thayer and Seton units of the MaineGeneral complex as the new consolidated hospital takes shape in Augusta, changing the use of the Waterville facilities, in "In the wings," starting on page 20.
We also have a rather, errr, uplifting story on page 12 by Contributing Writer Doug Kesseli on the remarkable growth of Bangor-based aircraft company C&L Air Services. The story, "Taking flight," follows the growth of C&L, which in 19 months has doubled staff and revenues, and projects more growth.
That's the kind of 2012 prediction we welcome.