The current negative television attack ad being aired by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Angus King implies that he is anti-business and will not be able to create new jobs. But nothing could be further from the truth when one looks at his eight-year record as governor.
King has a very good story to tell.
As an economic analyst at the Maine Department of Labor for nearly four decades, including the King years, I can say that he was a job-creating governor.
Gov. King was a business advocate. A record number of new jobs and businesses were created during his administration.
According to the Maine Department of Labor, between 1994 and 2002, the number of employed residents in Maine increased by 61,800 and the number of non-farm jobs grew at a slightly faster pace than the nation, increasing by 74,900.
In terms of job growth ranking, Maine climbed from a remarkable 38th in the nation to 13th, according to a study by Arizona State University, W.P. Carey School of Business. And the number of private businesses in Maine covered by Maine Unemployment Insurance increased by over 6,600.
The Maine economy was truly on the move and King traveled to several foreign countries to effectively promote Maine-made products and services.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the dollar value of the “gross domestic product” in Maine also grew at a slightly faster rate than the nation. Better than average job creation boosted per capita personal incomes for Maine citizens from 35th in the nation in 1994 to 31st in 2002.
In 1994, just before he became governor, Maine’s annual average unemployment rate was 6.4 percent. In his final year, in 2002, it was 4.4 percent, with 11,000 fewer people unemployed. And the national unemployment rate was 5.8 percent.
Maine's jobless rate was below the national average in five of his eight years in office, with one tie in 1998. In 2000, Maine’s rate fell to 3.3 percent. That was the lowest unemployment rate recorded in Maine since 1945. In the Lewiston-Auburn metropolitan area, 5,600 new jobs were created.
In his first year in office, King was instrumental in preventing Tambrands from closing. As a former Auburn City Councilor during that time, I can personally attest that his work behind the scenes saved 450 of the highest paying jobs in Auburn. His constant contact with Procter & Gamble executives in Cincinnati helped lower the plant’s workers compensation costs and he offered specific state incentives for them to keep the plant here.
His action built the foundation for Auburn officials who created a new tax increment financing district for the company to expand.
And in his last year in office, King personally got involved in negotiations with Walmart executives in Arkansas. This resulted in 800 new good-paying jobs at the new Walmart Distribution Center in Lewiston.
Anybody who criticizes King on job creation doesn’t know Maine.
Gerard Dennison was employed by the Maine Department of Labor from 1971 to 2008 as the regional senior economic analyst for western Maine and a principal economic analyst from 2005 to 2008. He also served on the Auburn City Council from 1994 to 2000.