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January 7, 2019 19 on '19

Economic development: Maine needs business and job growth to reach national levels

Photo / Courtesy of Camion Associates Jim Damicis, senior vice president at Camion Associates

Jim Damicis is a senior vice president at Camion Associates, an economic development firm with five offices, including one in Scarborough. He has more than 25 years' experience in public policy research and analysis and has been a frequent contributor to Mainebiz. We asked him for his analysis of the coming year.

Mainebiz: What are some growth areas in Maine's economy?

Jim Damicis: With an estimated 700,000 jobs in 2018, Maine has experienced job growth over the past year at a rate of 0.22% and past five years at 2.7%. While positive, this is half the growth rate experienced in the U.S. One-year trends by industry sectors do show positive signs in Maine with increases experienced in manufacturing, finance and professional/technical sectors, all which have higher than average wages.

MB: Is there still pent-up demand for real estate — both residential and commercial/industrial?

JD: The Maine real estate market has been experiencing positive trends. Demand for industrial properties has increased leading to both new development and redevelopment opportunities. Driving this is demand for smaller, flex spaces and spaces that integrate manufacturing, assembly and distribution. On the residential side, new construction has been strong, particularly in southern and coastal Maine. This has driven post-recession economic growth nationally and in Maine. Changing market dynamics call for multi-family and workforce housing, and housing to meet the needs of an aging population — from active senior living, to independent and assisted living. These types of housing were sorely lacking pre-recession.

MB: What are some areas of concern as you look at the economy in 2019?

JD: While the improved real estate market is positive, a major concern for Maine heading into 2019 and beyond is increasing business and employment growth to national levels — otherwise the real estate and construction trends will be temporary. We need to increase labor force participation. In Maine, as the number of jobs increased, the labor force participation rate decreased slightly from 64.8% to 64.4% from 2013-18. Maine must increase its labor force participation rate to be able to provide the needed workforce for expansion. This will require increased and sustained commitment to workforce training and supporting programs for populations that have been traditionally difficult to integrate into the workforce including displaced workers, recent immigrants, veterans and persons that are disabled, in recovery from addiction, or with criminal records.

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