FocusMaine cites success in first year of 10-year plan to add 20,000 jobs

BY Staff

Courtesy FocusMaine
Courtesy FocusMaine
Kim Hamilton, president of FocusMaine, says she's optimistic the organization's collaborative approach is creating a more competitive and prosperous Maine.

FocusMaine, a nonprofit partnership focused on increasing the state’s economic base, said its efforts have reaped success in agriculture and aquaculture businesses, a year after launching a 10-year plan to create 20,000 jobs in the two sectors and in biopharma.
“Our efforts have a unique focus on ‘traded sectors’ — those developing products that can be traded in national and international markets — which have the best potential to create more jobs and higher-quality jobs,” said Kim Hamilton, president of FocusMaine, in a news release. “On average, each job in traded sectors creates another 1.6 jobs in the local economy — at higher wages, too.”
The group, which formed in 2014, helps local enterprises enter emerging national and international markets. It does so through business accelerators, by providing planning tools, through investor and business attraction and a growing focus on domestic marketing.
In its first annual report since the jobs effort was launched, the report says, “Farmers, seafood producers, artisanal bakeries and beverage companies are expanding to meet a growing demand, and career-ready students are gaining direct work experience that helps them envision a dynamic future in Maine.
“With the growing demand for Maine’s agriculture and aquaculture bounty comes the ripple effect of economic diversity and growth, as well as better-paying, skilled jobs,” said the release. “Those, in turn, can serve as a magnet for young people to remain in the state, or return to share in this new economy.”
Next on FocusMaine’s agenda is the biopharma industry, with the goal of encouraging companies, now clustered in the Boston area and elsewhere, to look north, the release said.
Among the attractive incentives are a high quality of life and low cost of living, all within a short commute to Boston.
Jobs in the biopharma sector “create another 6.2 jobs in the local economy,” the release said.

Expansion of jobs in all the sectors will require a skilled workforce, the report said.
FocusMaine’s Internship Experience program, which is designed to raise awareness among younger workers of long-term career opportunities in the state engaged more than 400 summer interns working in 29 diverse Maine businesses in 2018, the report said. The goal for the program had been 300 workers.
Half of the interns were Maine residents who attend out of state colleges who were home for the summer. A quarter were residents of other states.
Other successes, according to the report:

  • In just one year, “we have seen Maine emerge as a global force in aquaculture.”
  • Maine’ heritage as the breadbasket of New England is resurgent, as grain growers expand to meet the demand from artisanal bakeries and the craft beer industry.
  • Chocolate, mushroom, oyster and mussel companies are expanding their markets.
  • Food and beverage companies are gaining the tools to scale up operations for sales outside of Maine.
  • Career-ready students are getting direct work experience that is helping them envision a dynamic future in Maine.
“FocusMaine is building the infrastructure to grow the demand for Maine products,” said the release that accompanied the report.
According to Hamilton, Maine is uniquely poised to enter these growing markets:
  • Consumers are willing to pay more for quality food; Maine has a growing national reputation as a dependable source of healthy food.
  • Maine is within a 24-hour drive of 150 million potential customers, making delivery of fresh food assured. The demand for locally produced food has increased nearly five-fold over the past 20 years.
  • Maine’s growing aquaculture industry is well-positioned to provide a sustainable source of protein to meet soaring global demand.

The FocusMaine partnership includes Coastal Enterprises Inc., Maine Center for Entrepreneurs, Maine Aquaculture Association, Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Maine & Co., Live and Work in Maine and Educate Maine.
The group has also added three more business leaders to its leadership team: Michael Bourque, CEO of MEMIC; Charles E. Hewett, former executive vice president of the Jackson Laboratory; and Chip Kelley, Maine market president of KeyBank.
“We are excited that together with our partners we are solving challenges that cannot be addressed by any single organization,” said Hamilton. “We are optimistic that FocusMaine’s work and collaborative approach will continue to connect Maine’s unique assets to the global economy, cultivating and attracting people who want to call Maine home and creating a more competitive and prosperous Maine.”
After it formed in 2014, the group hired a global consulting company to conduct an in-depth analysis of global trends and market opportunities, and related Maine’s industrial competitive advantages and weaknesses related to those opportunities.
It also collected on-the-ground perspectives from Maine business leaders, economic thought leaders, investors, entrepreneurs and policymakers.
The analysis led to the focus on traceable foods and biopharmaceuticals, as well as the importance of introducing potential workers to the fields, the report says.