At this time of New Year’s resolutions and planning for the future, many communities are also rethinking their economic plans and foundations. This is especially important for economically-challenged places, where an entire economic “reboot” may be needed. Often, this rethinking is easier said than done. The process of community change can be long, painful and wrenching. But, the conversation has to happen, building on new approaches, ideas, and strategies. If you’re embarking on this journey, or in the midst of it, you might get some inspiration from the conversations now ongoing in Maine where a group of committed folks are trying to spark a new conversation about Maine’s “next economy.”
There’s actually a number of interesting efforts underway in Maine. First, a new book, appropriately titled Maine’s Next Economy, examines “how the state’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and doers are growing a new prosperity.” This is part of a larger statewide effort known as Envision Maine. Meanwhile, the Bangor Daily News is playing its own part with its #TheEconomyProject, a deep dive into the future of Maine’s economy. This interesting series is worth a look. Particularly informative is the poll of the top 10 ideas for changing Maine’s economic future. The top 3 vote-getters for the general public were: reducing energy costs, expanding broadband, and improving K-12 education. A separate poll of policy experts picked the following top 3: improve workforce quality, focus on entrepreneurs and innovators, and improve K-12 education.
The specific ideas and proposals being discussed in Maine may not be appropriate for your state or community, but all of these efforts do provide great ideas on how to spark community conversations about how best to build a future economy. This kind of community engagement is an essential prerequisite to local economic transformation.