MTI to Review Maine’s Targeted Technology Sectors for Effectiveness & Relevancy

May 30, 2023 | President’s blog

Brian Whitney MTI President

In case you weren’t aware, the 131st Maine Legislature is in the midst of its first Regular Session.  This is the long year of the two-year session and generally runs from January to June every other year.

More than 2,000 bills were proposed by lawmakers this year and, according to a story in the Bangor Daily News back in January, the “new bills run the gamut from tackling Maine’s biggest problems to celebrating a chocolate-and-potato candy.”  I had to look that last one up as I am a big fan of both chocolate and potatoes.  I was delighted to learn, “An Act to Establish Maine Needham Day” was introduced earlier this session and is now the law of Maine.   As a result, each year on the last Saturday in September, we will now celebrate the chocolatey, sugary, potato and coconut-filled candy known as Needham.

I look forward to enthusiastically celebrating Maine Needham Day and it’s quite possible I won’t even wait until September to enjoy a few of the delicious candies.  In case you didn’t know, MTI portfolio company, Bixby Chocolate, makes a delicious Needham and they ship nationwide.  Alas, I digress.  Apologies for getting off topic but I am obviously easily distracted by chocolate.

In any event, the title of this month’s blog alludes to my primary reason for updating you on the goings-on at the Maine State House.  Like most legislative sessions, bills are routinely proposed to try to tweak or improve state incentives for various economic programs.  This year, a Resolution (LD 1318) was offered “Directing the Maine Technology Institute to Review Targeted Technology Sectors and Industry Clusters.”

The bill was proposed by Senator Rick Bennett.  Senator Bennett served as former chair of the Joint Select Committee on R&D back in the 118th Legislature (1997-1998), so he enjoys a unique perspective as that committee, followed by the complementary work of a similar Joint Select Committee in the 119th Legislature (1999-2000), really created the framework for the R&D programs that exist today, including the seven targeted technology sectors.  MTI is required by its statute to invest in these sectors.

According to the amended bill, MTI “shall review the effectiveness and relevancy of the targeted technology sectors and the industry clusters that have developed within those sectors to determine whether the laws governing the sectors and clusters should be amended.  The institute shall solicit public input during the review.  By January 15, 2024, the institute shall submit a report on the results of the review, including findings, recommendations and suggested legislation, to the Joint Standing Committee on Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business.”

Given that more than 20 years have passed since the designation of the targeted technology sectors, it is appropriate for the state to take a look at how Maine’s tech sectors and clusters are evolving and performing to ensure we are capitalizing on our assets and opportunities to grow a more robust technology-based economy.

MTI looks forward to engaging in a public process to solicit input from individuals and organizations across Maine.  In addition to issuing surveys to solicit feedback, I anticipate that we may also hold some in-person regional events.  We will likely flesh out the public process this summer/fall.  I hope to hear from you and perhaps even see you at one of the regional events.  It will be a great excuse to serve up some Needhams (Like I need an excuse)!

Have a great summer!