LD 955

There is a bill going through the Maine legislature entitled: “An Act To Transform the Maine Economy and Create Jobs”.  It has a number of components including reducing its carbon footprint, investing more in wind energy, ‘vertically integrating’ the wind energy industry (attracting turbine manufacturers, R&D, etc.), and the creation of a new ED fund.  This fund:

Eligible companies receiving funds must create net new jobs that pay at least the average labor market weekly wage and provide at  least a 50% employer-paid health care benefit, paid sick leave and access to an approved retirement plan.

I’ve talked about this before but most economic development incentive programs now are requiring a certain ‘quality of job’ (wages, benefits, etc.) before giving out tax breaks or grants.

Expanding research and development into food production to make the State the food basket of the Northeast. Funds will be provided to the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System and the Maine Technology Institute to expand research capacity, develop an educated and skilled workforce, expand business opportunities and create partnerships with local, national and international companies with expertise and capacity in food production.

I’ve always been interested in food as an economic development driver.  I’m not talking about agricultural production (although that is part of it) but the potential of being the ‘food basket’ for a wide area and attracting firms like Nestle here.  These firms just ship in their raw ingredients by container ship and process them in a centralized facility.  They do not necessarily locate in a community that produces a certain mix of agricultural products.  People will always need to eat and for a lot of food products, it is not practical to ‘offshore’ the production.  I worry a bit about the wage levels in the industry – these days I don’t want to encourage a lower wage industry coming here but I think this would be an interesting one to at least look at – and Maine is.

The bill also includes plans for a virtual medical school, support for the east-west highway, etc.

It’s pretty focused but at the same time a fairly bold new direction.





6 thoughts on “LD 955

  1. I like the food idea. The food industry has a strong innovation component. There is always an angle; organics, low fat, low cal, functional foods etc. I think New Brunwick has the innovation capacity, what we lack is the global brand recognition and distribution channels; Nestle would solve those challenges. Hell, we have Ocean Spray coming to the ‘chi so maybe Nestle coming to Woodstock is not so far fetched.

  2. I like the integration of public research organizations into the research and development plans. Note the reference to the University of Maine system; that’s not just a reference to the various campuses of UM, but a reference to the extension and outreach programs of this land grant university. UM sees itself as having a mission to the Maine community. We don’t have that here; our universities do not have this ‘mission’ orientation. That, IMHO, is a major advantage to US states.

  3. Many people advocate a strong role for universities for an innovative economy and this is a sound idea, in the US. In the US, professors need to respond to market and business demands to keep research funding flowing. In Canada, university unions defend their right for academic freedom and pursuit of curiosity driven research. And this works because NSERC, CFI, NCE and a multitude of other funding programs have been establish to fund them with minimal accoutability for commercialization; afterall this is the job of business. So, the result is universities working on interesting things that only occasionally interest the business community. The problem is highlighted by Canada’s sliding status on the OECD rankings despite the Feds commiting substatial r and d funding. Not sure of the fix as the unions are strong but one idea is to have more research funding available for business; at present SRED credits are the main business support and I don’t think this is adequate.

  4. One thing that having citizens initiatives and referenda means is that legislators typically work harder with their legislation. Go to GNB sometime and compare the legislation.

    The university question is a big issue. I don’t think you can generalize across canada because certainly every university is different. It’s not a bad idea to have one university focusing on ‘general interest’ and another on market ideas. Then use some system of tax credits, profit sharing or royalties to fund one to the other.

    The University of Waterloo is a textbook example. The school is essentially run by private interests. Many universities are the same now, they only offer ‘space’, if you aren’t bringing your own funding, forget it, they won’t talk to you. Waterloo is particularly run by Microsoft and RIM, and again you get the same problems as being tied to any corporation.

    But as I’ve said before, U of Waterloo is essentially a private school for international students, their President gloats on it. A white male student on campus is usually a pretty rare site (and this is a german area). Meanwhile, as ontario workers are suffering, tuition levels are through the roof and fewer ontarians now get post secondary education than in the nearby US, where costs are far higher (but more grants are available).

    Canada’s federal R&D spending is far from substancial, in fact I know from experience that most scientific grants have been frozen. The Genome project has largely seen its funding cut completely. The conservatives are very good at hyping when they do make investments, but that doesn’t mean overall spending has been going up-far from it.

  5. It is flat out wrong to suggest that Canadian government funding of R&D is not substantial. Here are some facts:

    Canada ranks as one of the top five nations for publicly-performed research as a proportion of GDP.—Sources: biotech.ca, Statistics Canada, KPMG, Ernst &Young

    And OECD data:

    Public R&D Performance of G7
    By country as a share of GDP

    Canada 0.90% (2005)

    France 0.78% (2005)

    Germany 0.76% (2005)

    Japan 0.73% (2004)

    United States 0.69% (2004)

    United Kingdom 0.58% (2004)

    Italy 0.56% (2004)

    —Source:OCED 2006

    As a result, Canadian universities have the largest share of R&D on any G7 country: 38% versus the US at 13.7% reference:

    We are spending the moeny with limited results. The researchers are saying they need more time and more money to deliver results. I am suggesting we need to look at the distribution of those funds; there are lessons to learn from the US who have excellent R&D performance.

  6. Food is an interesting topic, I was watching 60 minutes the other night and they were interviewing Alice Waters who I gather is a legend in the food/restaurant business. I found her aggravating and seemed to be as she is maligned, elitist. What I did get out of the interview was that it made me think about how we buy food, where its made etc. and what seems to be an ever increasing amount of problems with our food production or rather the food production that is carried out in other countries where they might not be so concerned about pesticides, proximity to toxins and such. I know there have been attempts at greenhouse productions in Atlantic Canada and some are successful but can they be more successful? Is there an opportunity for growth in this sector? Aren’t consumers more willing than ever to pay a premium for organic foods, especially if they are grown here in New Brunswick? Oil will be going back up and then shipping all manner of vegetables and fruit form California, Mexico, Central and South America or Asia will be going up as well. Kinda ties into self-sufficiency agenda as well (yikes!).

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