Maine Vs. the World Print Page

Date: April 3, 2009
Author: Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA -- Maine lacks focus and leadership in economic development, and should capitalize on tourism and energy in the future, the president of Maine & Company said Thursday.

Matt Jacobson, who leads a private nonprofit group dedicated to job creation, shared his thoughts on the state economy at the Maine Press Association Spring Conference at the Augusta Civic Center.

"We're competing against the world," he said.

Jacobson, a Republican who has formed an exploratory committee to consider a run for governor in 2010, said the state would do well to focus on tourism and energy to create new jobs in the state.

A former president of the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad and former Air Force officer, Jacobson said his mission at Maine & Company is to bring new companies here, help existing businesses expand and provide tools to help serve as an incubator for new businesses.

He's been with Maine & Company since 2006.

Jacobson said Maine should look at ways to build on the strength of the region, including working with Canada; and that the state needs to identify an industry it wants to cultivate.

As an example, he said the state could more aggressively market itself as a cruise ship destination, which could increase the number of ships that visit each year from 200 to 1,500.

That would open the door to other possibilities, such as making Maine Maritime Academy a training ground for crews, creating a market for businesses to repair cruise ships and establishing an opportunity to provision ships with Maine foods such as blueberries and lobster, he said.

Jacobson, of Portland, also said the state must address the high cost of electricity, because Maine industrial customers spend an average of 13 cents a kilowatt-hour while the national average is 6 cents per kilowatt-hour. He said that hurts the state's chances of recruiting companies more than "health care, taxes, bad roads, snow" and an aging population.

"Other states are being more aggressive with incentive plans," he said. "We're competing with that more and more."

In addition, Jacobson said he supports the idea of working with Canada to bring cheaper electricity to and through Maine. And he thinks the state should consider a bond to help all homes become more weather-efficient in the next five to 10 years to reduce the state's reliance of foreign oil.

Jacobson did not mention his interest in running for governor during his remarks. He has taken the step of registering with the state ethics commission so he can raise money, as have five other people in the governor's race.

Former Attorney General Steven Rowe, a Democrat, has said he intends to run, but has not filed any papers or made any formal announcements.

Jacobson, when asked about his exploratory committee, said he plans to make an announcement about a candidacy in May.

"I think people are looking for a change," he said. "People are interested in listening."

URL: Susan Cover's "Maine Vs. the World" at the Kennebec Journal

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