Overcoming obstacles to doing business in Maine means bringing them together.

Recently, I spent considerable time running around Augusta getting the paperwork for my candidacy for the local House seat to the right people in the right office. Each form had to be delivered to a different office, each with its own layer of bureaucracy, standards and timelines.

The point of this experience was not lost on me. I know that local citizens and businesses are constantly bogged down by similar concerns, in part because we entrust government with so many important duties. It can get better.

It isn’t about more government or less government. It’s about smarter government that increases opportunities, not limits them.

One good move toward smarter government is the work being done in SAD 9. Superintendent Michael Cormier has been a leader in the development of the Western Maine Educational Collaborative, which represents approximately 13,000 students who attend 45 schools across 11 school systems. WMEC members share bidding and purchasing of items such as fuel and paper, and they share some administrative positions and student services. They are working to expand their collaborations to improve educational services while saving money.

In a similar vein, I think people should work to get their government out of the way of job growth, while using government to help facilitate that growth.

I practice patent law, which means I help inventors and entrepreneurs turn their ideas into a reality. I work with clients in Maine and around the world, so I have seen up close the difficulties of doing business here.

For example, my first patent client in Farmington was Manufacturing Technical Enterprises, which was formed by several innovative people from Farmington, including Alison Hagerstrom and the Rev. Scott Planting. I first met Hagerstrom when she went on a trade mission to Quebec in early 1998, looking to broaden the market for MTE. I was there as a solo patent practitioner from Maine looking to connect with the larger economy to the north.

We both found it ironic that we had to go to another country in order to meet one another. Maine businesses should not have to go to another country to find one another. Other states have created and tested programs for building networks to bring businesses together and maximize a climate of growth. We need to follow those examples and turn upside down the current perception of Maine as a difficult place to bring a business.

Since MTE’s tragic loss by fire later in 1998, the old schoolhouse building has slowly and steadily grown from the ashes with the hard work of community volunteers applying a pragmatic approach toward transforming the building into a community center. For her part, Hagerstrom has worked hard with the business community in her current organization, the Greater Franklin Development Corp. She has taken GFDC from a tiny office, bootstrapped in part from the generosity of Kyes Insurance, to a modest but professional and efficient office in the renovated Church Street Commons facility.

Sometimes progress takes baby steps, but it’s those small steps that gain traction. Such business-oriented and practical approaches to government, business and education are as bold as they are moderate. Consistently applying these principles will lead to a better life for our citizens.

Efficiency should be foremost on people’s minds, not just during lean economic times such as this, but also during the good times. I applaud the Baldacci administration and the Maine Legislature for their work toward efficiency through various types of consolidation and similar streamlining methods.

Even though some of those plans may need revising and refining, I think that streamlining the government to make it more efficient and effective should be the No. 1 priority. Doing that will help maintain essential government services without having to raise taxes, and it will provide businesses with the right environment in which to create jobs and opportunities.

Dennis Haszko of Farmington, a registered patent practitioner, is the Democratic candidate for House District 89 (Farmington-Industry). The special election is Feb. 3.


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