May 26, 2019

Study says Portland’s economy has ripple effect on entire state

PORTLAND – A study by the Portland Regional Chamber aimed at underscoring the importance of Greater Portland to Maine’s economy showed that more than 40 percent of the state’s income and jobs are generated in the region.

The region, from Freeport to Kennebunkport, accounts for nearly 43 percent of the gross state product, more than 44 percent of Maine’s total personal income and more than 42 percent of the jobs in the state, according to the study.

The study, released Tuesday, found that the Portland region’s influence was greater than the average of 33 other regions used as benchmarks.

Godfrey Wood, the chamber’s chief executive officer, said the 110-page analysis is intended to create a portrait of its economy.

But it will also be useful in demonstrating the ripple effect of Greater Portland’s economy when chamber officials call on state legislators about issues that are important to businesses in the region.

“There are very different things that should be done in this region than should be done in Aroostook County or Washington County,” he said.

The report compared Greater Portland with regions and cities of similar size that are also surrounded by rural areas, including Manchester, N.H., Burlington, Vt., Savannah, Ga., Boise, Idaho, and Santa Fe, N.M.

The report found that the region fares well in quality of life measures. But it also found high taxes and a high cost of living.

Charles Colgan, an economist and professor at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine, said the report illustrates an economy in transition.

“Overall, the transfer to a more urban-related economy has been going on for the last 30 years, but it’s not widely appreciated,” he said.

Laurie Lachance, a former state economist and now president and chief executive officer of the Maine Development Foundation, said the report shouldn’t be used to justify steering most of the state’s economic development resources to southern Maine.

At the same time, she said, it’s important for the chamber to share the report’s findings with others in the state.

“There certainly needs to be some recognition that you don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs,” she said.

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