Maine has a pessimistic business climate.

Tell us something we don’t know.

This week, in Lewiston, yet another conference examined Maine’s non-optimistic economic atmosphere. A customary gaggle of economic developers, businesspeople and assorted officials waxed about disconnects among business, politics and education.

If conferences about economic woes were an exportable commodity, Maine could boast a trade surplus as gaudy as China’s. Business pessimism in the Pine Tree State has been studied, dissected, diagnosed and decried ad nauseam. It was the subject of two separate conferences in October alone, in Hallowell and Lewiston.

Sociology studies say the more a topic is discussed, the more entrenched it becomes as factual; so, is it any surprise Maine’s economic pessimism has become so difficult to shake? All we do, it seems, is talk about causations for this regrettable situation, and recommend solutions that are rarely considered.

Business isn’t vocal enough in Augusta, it’s true. Prime evidence is that one of the most innovative economic policy proposals in recent memory – an east-west highway from Calais to Coburn Gore in Franklin County – originated from Peter Vigue, the top executive of Cianbro Corp., and not from anybody inside government.

Vigue’s plan is a breath of fresh economic air. The proliferation of “Vigue for Governor” bumper stickers should remind officials – of the elected and appointed variety – that creativity and action are requirements of their positions, not the restating of old problems.

Yes, it’s important to understand how Maine’s economy has arrived where it is today. But continual talking about these issues, in vainglorious attempts to reverse our negative persona, are fool’s errands. Good karma doesn’t write payroll checks, and a positive economic attitude is not the same as a positive business climate.

Turning Maine around will take optimism, a chunk which was displayed Friday at the pessimism symposium, where there was little hand-wringing and lots of plain-spoken advice.

But it will also take legislative embrace of market-based solutions to important problems, such as health care and energy costs. For example: instead of also massaging regulations surrounding the health insurance market to foster greater competition, Maine has received Dirigo Health.

There was room for government intervention to cover Maine’s uninsured. But the “death spiral” of Maine’s individual insurance markets – and its crippling premium increases – also left opportunity for market-based reforms to increase consumer accessibility to affordable coverage.

Maine got the former. It still needs the latter.

Few better economic mood enhancers exist than attractive taxation and health care environments, and affordable energy rates. Optimism alone cannot overcome the obstacles for Maine’s growth.

Leadership, vision and innovation can.

Further conferences on our economic pessmism are unncessary. This situation is known from Calais to Coburn Gore, and all points in between. Maine’s economy doesn’t need lifestyle coaches or anti-depressants.

It needs to stop talking, and start doing.


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