Will a bottom-up approach to statewide economic development planning succeed where past efforts have failed?

As part of the Bangor Daily News’ coverage of Maine’s changing economy, we’ve discussed the state’s lack of a long-term economic development strategy. Past attempts created and funded from Augusta, such as the Maine Development Foundation and Maine & Co., while still doing good work, have not been given the resources to follow through on their original missions.

Each new administration wants to put its own stamp on the state’s economic development. Each new Legislature is forced to reassess priorities. These political realities often mean initiatives championed by one group of lawmakers is discarded by the next.

But a four-year old initiative that began on the regional level is looking to change that paradigm. The initiative, known as Mobilize Maine, has grown in scope and recently learned it will receive $575,000 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to create a statewide economic development strategy based on the work Maine’s seven distinct economic development regions have done the past few years.

Instead of the initiative being created and funded from Augusta, it has been driven by public- and private-sector partners in each region and funded by grants from the EDA, which has been supporting promising models of long-term economic development planning for states.

It’s too early to tell how the Mobilize Maine effort will evolve, or whether it will fill the void so many experts cite Maine’s economic development plans for having when it comes to long-term vision. But it’s a promising start. Given its grassroots nature, it’s an effort that could be there year after year no matter how often they play musical chairs in Augusta.

You can read more about the Mobilize Maine effort, and what it plans to do with its new grant money, in my article, “Grass-roots effort underway to create statewide economic development strategy,” which was published over the weekend.

BDN Maine Focus

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