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Updated: January 18, 2024

Maine is starting 2024 in 'good shape,' state economist says

Photo / Alison Nason Amanda Rector, Maine's state economist, addressed the Mainebiz "5 on the Future" forum on Wednesday with her 2024 outlook.

The state economist, Amanda Rector, offered a bullish perspective Wednesday on Maine’s economy in 2024 and cited growing diversity in the workforce and population as evidence.

“2023 ended on solid footing, and we’re starting 2024 in reasonably good shape,” she told a Mainebiz forum in South Portland.

While Maine was ranked the least diverse state in 2020, three counties — Androscoggin, Cumberland and Washington — are outshining their peers on an index of diversity, she said. The index measures the chance that two people selected at random will be from different race or ethnicity groups. In Washington County, for example, American Indians and native or indigenous residents are contributing to greater diversity in that region.

Rector also noted that younger generations in Maine are more diverse than older generations, which in turn will be reflected in an increasingly diverse workforce as those individuals graduate from school and get jobs.

“That’s encouraging in terms of new thoughts, new innovations coming into the workplace, and something to keep in mind as we see the generational shift happening,” she said.

Inflation still elevated 

Rector noted that while housing and energy prices are coming down, inflation is still elevated. Federal interest rates are expected to help, but she said their number and timing will depend on inflation, employment and other national indicators.

Contributing to the uncertainty and economic risks, she said, are elevated geopolitical tensions, as flagged by the Maine Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission in its November report, coupled with the upcoming U.S. election, federal budget negotiations and consumer spending.

On the good news front, she said the ongoing rollout of federal funds and other “cushions” will help provide economic stability. In particular, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will pave the way for $2.5 billion to be invested in Maine over the next few years, with much of the implementation beginning in 2024.

In addition, Maine’s Budget Stabilization Fund — often called the Rainy Day Fund" — is at the statutory limit of nearly $970 million, providing an extra buffer in case of unexpected and sudden revenue shortfalls, she said.

Rector, the keynote speaker at the Mainebiz “5 on the Future” forum, also moderated a panel discussion with representatives of various industries across Maine.

Panelists included Dava Davin, CEO of Portside Real Estate Group: Denis Garriepy, chief operating officer at Landry/French Construction; Chris Mallett, chief administrative officer at Northeastern University’s Roux Institute; Maine Bankers Association President Jim Roche; and Kierston Van Soest, CFO of L.L.Bean.

Around 260 people attended the event, held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Portland, across from the Maine Mall in South Portland.

panelists seated
Photo / Renee Cordes
From left, Amanda Rector with panelists Dava Davin, Denis Garriepy, Chris Mallett, Jim Roche and Kierston Van Soest.

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