By Sen. Chip Curry and Rep. Tiffany Roberts
We must work to build a future for Maine where our businesses thrive, our communities prosper and our people are equipped with the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow. This legislative session, we have an opportunity to make a visionary investment in Maine’s economy by enacting LD 1918, which would create the Dirigo Business Incentive Program to replace the existing Pine Tree Development Zone Program.
The Pine Tree Development Zone Program was created in 2003 during a much different economic environment than the one we are living in today. At the time, Maine was grappling with high unemployment rates. Now, we face an entirely different set of challenges, including a workforce constrained by a lack of necessary skills, despite our growing economy.
In the Legislature, we respond to a variety of urgent issues: ensuring that housing is more affordable for all, making health care more accessible, increasing energy independence, and protecting our natural resources. These are not isolated issues; they are all interconnected and are heavily influenced by the health and growth of our economy.
To respond to these challenges effectively, we need a robust, people-first economy where Mainers can have good-paying, family-sustaining jobs with access to high-quality education and training. The new Dirigo program would aim to build this economy by offering a simplified and targeted two-pronged approach. It would introduce a worker training tax credit designed to spur businesses to invest more in their employees’ skill development, along with a capital investment tax credit to encourage investment in our rural communities.
This unique approach provides an opportunity to elevate our workforce while simultaneously fostering business growth. It would focus on industries with above-average wages and growth potential – including manufacturing, engineering, research and development, and biotech – helping to make Maine a competitive player in emerging and growing markets. We are committed to advancing prosperity for all Mainers, and investing in skills training for workers that is directly tied to good-paying jobs will be a critical driver of our future economic growth.
The Dirigo program has been in development for more than a year and has been designed with a solid commitment to both economic impact and fiscal responsibility. Feedback and expertise from business owners, economic developers, and lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle have helped make this plan strong.
Committed to transparency, the program will protect taxpayer funds by ensuring that credits are only provided after businesses make qualifying capital and workforce investments. This common-sense approach to business incentives can assure Mainers that their hard-earned tax dollars are being used effectively to stimulate real economic growth.
Furthermore, the program has been designed from the start with transparency in mind. Annual public reporting requirements will ensure the program’s impacts are clear and measurable. It will also require critical performance data to be publicly available, allowing us to continually assess its impact, optimize its benefits and ensure alignment with Maine’s strategic plan.
As the chairs of the Joint Standing Committee on Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement, and Business, we have seen firsthand how critical it is to consistently reassess and modernize the programs we use to grow Maine’s economy. That’s why we were proud to guide LD 1918 through a bipartisan, unanimous committee vote of support last month.
Our actions today will shape the future of Maine. The Dirigo Business Incentive Program will be an essential piece to help foster a prosperous and thriving state for generations to come.