January 19, 2018

NIMBY vs. YIMBY debate continues to guide development

Maine's real estate industry continues to look for ways to turn NIMBY into YIMBY — "not in my back yard" to "yes in my back yard" — as it continues to connect with the Legislature in 2018.

Andrea Cianchette Maker, a partner at Pierce Atwood, outlined the Maine Real Estate & Development Association's legislative agenda for the year. She made her comments Thursday at MEREDA's annual forecast conference, which was attended by 900 people at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland.

MEREDA's Public Policy Committee had an increased legislative presence in 2017, including a meet-and-greet for legislators in the Hall of Flags, where they could stop by, enjoy some food and talk to members about issues that concern the organization.

"It was a really productive day for MEREDA," she said.

Besides finding ways to make communities more inclined to welcome development, MEREDA will also push for an extension of the Pine Tree Development Zone law, which is due to expire in developer. The zones, which give tax breaks to qualifying projects that create jobs, are "the biggest tool in our toolbox."

MEREDA supports the bill that's before the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee that would extend the development zone program for five years. She said the committee will also look for ways to get involved with finding solutions for the impact of workforce issues on the design and build industry in the state.

Workforce shortage continues to hamper hospitality industry

Steve Hewins, head of the Maine Innkeepers Association, told the MEREDA audience that the state's hospitality and tourism industry is strong, but is held back by a lack of workers.

Increases in the average daily rate of occupancy and the revenue per room both rose 2% to 3% in 2017, and the trend should continue.

"Maine is a destination," he said.

The biggest issue facing both accommodations and restaurants are lack of workers. He said federal limits to work visas for seasonal employees who come from overseas have hurt Maine businesses, and he expects that trend to continue.

"Some of our members just can't get their people in," he said.

One solution is to push more for Maine-grown workers, including reaching out to high schools and colleges and making it clear that there are careers in the hospitality industry. While the state's traditional vacation destinations continue to do well, he also said the state tourism industry should continue to pitch the state as a four-season destination, which would help push revenues and occupancy up in slow winter months in areas that don't traditionally get winter tourists.


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