AUGUSTA – Gov. Angus King highlighted his administration’s interest in economic development in Maine’s rural areas Wednesday, announcing the formal establishment of the OneMaine Advisory Council.
The 25-member panel is an outgrowth of a group that has been meeting for a couple of years.
A King executive order issued last Friday cited “economic disparities among regions” and asserted that “achieving the goal of a strong and sustainable economy across all regions of Maine calls for an investment strategy that focuses on education, infrastructure and innovation.”
King announced the formal establishment of the council during a news conference in his State House office attended by several panel members, including co-chairmen Dana Connors of the Maine State Chamber and Barry McCrum of Time-Warner Cable.
“It’s about creating opportunity for all of Maine,” Connors said, adding that the aim of the council was to promote economic development strategies that will “unite the state and not divide the state.”
Talk of economic disparities in the state frequently is phrased in the context of two Maines, suggesting divides that are variously described as north versus south, rural versus urban or some similar expression of polarization.
King said Wednesday he views the issue as more complex and that, rather than seeing two Maines, “I can identify five or six at least.”
Economic development policies should strive to produce “equality of opportunity,” he said, ideally making good jobs available throughout the state.
King said some hard-pressed areas – he named central Aroostook and Waldo counties – have rebounded in recent years and now maintain “extremely strong” economies.
To bolster economic development elsewhere, he said, “there is no single answer. … You have to do everything.”
The governor’s executive order asserts that “effective solutions to address Maine’s economic disparities require a partnership between representatives from the regional economic development districts, state governments, federal agencies and the private sector.”