New Report Identifies Economic Development Strategies for Rural Maine

Augusta, ME – The Maine Center for Economic Policy today released Health Care and Tourism: A Lead Sector Strategy for Rural Maine, David Vail and Lisa Pohlmann editors. This is a continuation of MECEP’s Spreading Prosperity to All of Maine project, which aims to explore and promote sustainable rural development strategies targeted specifically at Maine’s “rim” counties: Aroostook, Franklin, Oxford, Piscataquis, Somerset, and Washington.

The report makes the case for promoting two key service sectors – health care and tourism – because they currently account for more than one in four jobs in the rim counties. Both sectors bring in substantial outside revenues, have strong linkages to other rural economic sectors, and have untapped growth potential. Recommendations include:

Health Care: Workforce Development and Telemedicine

State reimbursement strategies should encourage (or, at least, not discourage) counseling, rehabilitation and physical therapy providers to locate in rural areas to meet the needs of an aging population, which would, in turn, provide more mid-level and high paying health care jobs for local residents and new in-migrants. Maine must also organize a better system of health care workforce preparation at all educational levels.

Maine should support “telemedicine” development by accelerating the building of telecommunications and digital information infrastructure in rural areas. This will ensure health care availability in remote areas and provide high wage jobs and an economic development incentive for other sectors.

Tourism: Creating a “World Class” Destination

 A “twin parks” strategy would shape a Great Maine Woods Recreational Network from our nearly three million acres of protected lands and natural wonders. This strategy requires a major investment in destination development, both to create a network of high value recreational lands and to upgrade the “green infrastructure” (visitors’ centers, trails, and signage) that make them attractive and accessible to visitors.

Maine should pursue National Heritage Area status, which would allow rural Maine to be promoted under the National Park Service banner (not under federal control) and receive several million dollars to strengthen and market heritage itineraries.

Maine must support the degree programs, applied research, outreach services, and employee training offered by CenTRO (the University and Community College Systems’ Center for Tourism Research and Outreach) to help more outfitters, restaurants and lodgings offer top quality service, which will lead to more livable wage jobs.

For the complete report and executive summary: Full Report and Ex Summary

Or go to: MECEP Spreading Prosperity Webpage