LEWISTON – “L-A continues to show the way to the overall state economy,” Gov. John E. Baldacci told more than 100 community leaders Friday morning at a Bates College Breakfast Seminar.

“It’s an exciting rejuvenation that’s taking place. Many great things are happening here,” he said in remarks that set an optimistic tone for the Blaine House Conference on Maine’s Creative Economy, to be held at the Bates Mill Complex on May 6 and 7.

Examples of creative economy in the Twin Cities range from the Great Falls Balloon Festival to the products of Mary’s Candy Shop, he said.

“Maine leads in opportunities to grow businesses in the creative economy in particular,” the governor continued. “The creative economy is a fancy word for recognizing individual entrepreneurs – people who are going to work individually in their homes, at opportunities in engineering, architecture, software design, artists and artisans.”

He applauded the area’s high standards of social capital in terms of voter participation, library readership, service organization activity and volunteerism, and welcoming new immigrants.

“The term creative economy’ probably captures everything that’s magical about economic growth,” Baldacci said. “The creative economy is what exists when we recognize that every individual in our community is an economic engine.”

He added that the creative economy, as a concept, “touches on exactly what we’re talking about in Augusta: removing impediments to growth, investing in communities, in technology and education, and training workers.”

He said the Maine Arts Commission has helped him develop next month’s conference “with the core conviction that jobs in the arts and investment in the arts are good for everyone.”

He emphasized that people want to move to communities that have art, music, theaters and festivals.

“That creates a synergy which builds on itself,” he said.

The Blaine House Conference on Maine’s Creative Economy will bring 600 civic and business leaders to Lewiston next month. Several large spaces within the Bates Mill Complex are being transformed into exhibition and meeting areas for the event.

Friday’s breakfast forum also gave the governor an opportunity to talk about several current issues including State House budget negotiations, tax reform, Dirigo Health and extension of the laptop computer program to high schools.

Speaking about education administration, he said, “whether at the university level or the K-to-12 level, if you’re going to start to deliver the services and hold the tax rate down, the only way to do it is to merge these administrations and have more community cooperation taking place.”

Baldacci also repeated his concerns about high Medicaid costs and the difficulty of making cuts.

“This is the first time this program has had oversight and management in trying to get a handle on those costs so that we’re providing the care, but it’s being done in a more managed care setting. It represents frugality,” he said, “but we’re still making sure that people have the services in brain injury, in the deaf community, in occupational therapy and physical therapy.”

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