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July 2, 2024 at 6:00 am

In Maine, Evolution Drives Economic Prosperity

By:  James W. Dinkle, Executive Director, FirstPark

Maine’s economy is strong, and the proof is in the proverbial pudding. In fact, our state economy is one of the strongest in the country.

According to the most recent data, Maine’s economic output grew faster than the rest of New England at the end of 2023, with a massive uptick in goods and services. In the fourth quarter of last year, the output of goods and services in Maine hit an annual growth rate of 4.4 percent—the highest in the region and even above the national average (3.4 percent).

Not only that, but take-home pay is increasing in Maine, with personal income seeing a 4.7 percent growth rate. In the income department, only Rhode Island finishes higher in New England.

Why the jump in economic output and personal income? There are many factors, but various sectors of the Maine economy are growing. Industry is thriving, including the manufacturing sector. The subsidies for US-based manufacturing via the Inflation Reduction Act puts Maine in a unique position to benefit from homegrown manufacturing for years to come.

One of the key factors is evolution on a statewide scale. Maine-based companies and entire industries are innovating, hiring, and expanding. From research and development to new sales and marketing techniques, economic growth is only possible when businesses large and small take advantage of new opportunities and find ways to enter new markets. Prospects become clients and customers, while new goods and services flood the marketplace. And that is happening here.

Maine is relentlessly competing for residents, especially business owners, entrepreneurs, and innovators who diversify and make our economy stronger.

While the state saw massive population growth because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to keep selling the Maine way of life. This means selling places outside of Portland that are still viable destinations to live and work. People need to understand that our state is much, much more than “Vacationland,” although Mainers certainly find time to play, too.

As the saying goes, we are all in this together. I have worked in economic development at the state, regional and local levels for decades, and Maine has plenty to offer. Banding together, we can promote Maine’s strengths, such as quality of life, access to recreation, the four seasons and a bustling economy, too. Our state is a place for golf and skiing, but also business expansion, job creation and financial security. The same goes for offshore wind projects, sustainable energy initiatives and life sciences, plus shipping, receiving and manufacturing, to name just a few sectors.

Let’s not forget Maine’s potential. I serve as executive director of FirstPark in Oakland, so I see the value of “economic development” firsthand — not only the state’s recent accomplishments, but also the room for growth and business diversification. Fortunately, Maine’s collaborative spirit is tangible, with real estate developers and other constituencies often working together to fuel economic growth.

FirstPark came about through collaboration. Established in Oakland by the Kennebec Regional Development Authority (KRDA) — one of the state’s most unique economic development organizations — and supported by more than 20 member communities, FirstPark is a 285-acre campus that houses businesses of all sizes.

We currently have 148 acres of land available to be purchased, permitted by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Maine Department of Transportation, and Army Corps of Engineers. FirstPark is proud to offer 11 lots for sale, either individually or all together, with lot sizes ranging from seven acres to up to 50 acres. Businesses and buildings of all sizes are welcome, and the business park is not cost-prohibitive for start-up businesses and others looking to purchase land in Maine.

After all, Mainers are firm believers in entrepreneurship and proud supporters of local businesses. Some people may think that a small town like Oakland is cut off from the rest of the world, but Maine is more accessible than people tend to believe. Located 15 miles from the state capital, two miles west of the Kennebec River, and immediately adjacent to Interstate 95, FirstPark is conveniently connected to the rest of Maine and beyond. Whether businesses are trying to do work in Central Maine, the rest of New England or even Canada, there are easy transportation options in Oakland to take work anywhere.

The business park is more than a campus; we are a community. And that speaks to Maine in general. Our state has so much to offer when we work together as a community. If we sell the Maine way of life together, who could say “no” to that?

Jim Dinkle serves as Executive Director of FirstPark in Oakland, ME.

Categories: Articles & Editorials, Maine Real Estate Insider