As always, there have been quite a few updates and news stories in Maine’s innovation economy since I last wrote. From an insightful and thorough look at our state’s performance, to some exciting announcements from a few of the organizations that help drive growth in Maine, there’s a great deal I want to share. So, let’s dive in.
Recently Released Report Evaluates Maine’s Performance Against 27 Indicators
The Maine Development Foundation (MDF) and Maine Economic Growth Council released their annual “Measures of Growth” report last week. This was the 25th such report issued by MDF, and it provides a candid, non-partisan evaluation of Maine’s “assets, including the health of our environment and the relative safety of our communities, and areas of persistent challenge, including workforce development, investment in research and development to support innovation, maintaining our transportation infrastructure, and health care costs.”
The Measures of Growth report issues gold stars as indicators of exceptional performance, red flags for areas of need, and assigns progress symbols to reflect movement against benchmarks established by the Council. One of its red flags was assigned to the total percentage of Maine’s gross domestic product (GDP) spent toward research and development (using the most recent 2016 data from the National Science Foundation). The Council’s benchmark goal seeks that Maine’s total spending on R&D equal at least 3% of the state’s total GDP. It notes that the 2016 numbers indicate that Maine spent less than 1% of GDP on R&D ($483 million). In particular, it observes that we lag other states in private sector and university R&D investments relative to GDP. It does point out, however, that Maine’s non-profit sector contributes a higher proportion of total R&D investment compared to other states, which largely results from the fine work being done at Maine’s world-class non-profit research institutions like the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Jackson Laboratory, MDI Biological Laboratory, Maine Medical Center Research Institute, and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.
So, clearly, given that “R&D spending is an indicator of the level of innovation in an economy, and the ultimate driver of most economic growth,” sustained public and private investments are key to moving the needle. We will likely see progress in future Measures of Growth associated with the $45 million R&D infrastructure bond that MTI is currently administering. Awards associated with that bond will leverage over $193 million in private sector matching investments and will generate 5,350 jobs and $1.4 billion in economic impact.
A bright spot in the Measures of Growth report relates to Maine’s growth in early-stage entrepreneurship. The early-stage entrepreneurship indicator in the report is an aggregate measurement of “the rate of new entrepreneurs, the opportunity share of new entrepreneurs, startup early job creation, and startup early survival rate.” Using Kauffman Foundation data, Maine made a massive jump in the 50-state ranking of early-stage entrepreneurship from 37th in 2016 to 6th in 2017. “Maine’s strong 2017 performance was driven by the highest first-year survival rate in the country, 88%.” So, it’s very encouraging that Maine’s legacy of tinkerers and Yankee ingenuity persists.
Congratulations to the Portland Chapter of Score on Their National Recognition
On the topic of entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses, I want to acknowledge that the National Small Business Week occurs next week (May 5 – 11). As part of that celebration, the federal Small Business Administration is presenting awards to small businesses and organizations that support them. I want to congratulate the Portland Chapter of SCORE for earning the distinction of National SCORE Chapter of the Year. The Portland Chapter of SCORE was feted over 300 other chapters for this richly-deserved honor. Led by Chapter Chair Nancy Strojny, SCORE is an integral strategic partner with MTI as it provides critical mentoring assistance to entrepreneurs. Nancy and State Chapter Director Steve Veazey will be in Washington, DC next week to receive their honor.
Greenlight Maine Deadline Approaching
Again, on the topic of entrepreneurs and small businesses, I want to remind everyone that the application deadline for season five of Greenlight Maine, Maine’s weekly televised pitch competition, is May 15. A panel of judges will winnow the applicants down to 26 contestants that will eventually appear on the popular show and will be eligible to compete for the $100,000 cash prize. MTI is proud to serve again as a sponsor of this exciting, inspirational and aspirational television series.
2019 Manufacturing Summit Coming in May
And, finally, our friends at the Manufacturers Association of Maine will be holding their 2019 Manufacturing Summit at Lost Valley Ski Area in Auburn on May 17. The Summit’s theme is “Shaping the Future: Powering Growth!” Touted as the “largest gathering of manufacturers in the state,” it will feature a Business Showcase, awards for Innovator of the Year, Manufacturer of the Year, and the Pine Tree award for innovation in wood products manufacturing. MTI is a sponsor of the Manufacturing Summit and will be on hand for the event. For more information, visit 2019 Manufacturing Summit.