AUGUSTA — Jumpstarting the local economies movement in Maine is the goal of a statewide gathering on March 22 titled “Creating and Sustaining Vibrant Local Economies in Maine.” The event takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Randall Student Center, University of Maine at Augusta.

Conference organizers, representing diverse parts of the Maine economy, believe that greater support for local economic enterprises, rather than trying to lure a few large employers to the state, would produce the most vibrant and thriving economic development for Maine. They list some of the advantages as: paying better wages and benefits, keeping money in the local community, having reduced transportation costs, offering more options for young people to stay in Maine, selling healthier food products that are produced in state and providing more community stability, especially in smaller towns.

More than 20 Maine-based economic development, environmental, labor and civic groups have already agreed to co-sponsor the day, including the Time Initiative of Maine, the Maine People’s Alliance, the Bureau of Labor Education, the Maine Small Business Coalition, Maine Rural Partners, the Maine Council of Churches, and Women, Work, and Community/University of Maine, Augusta. More co-sponsors are expected.

Attendees will not only describe the strengths and weaknesses of the current local economies movement in Maine but also offer a vision of what it could look like in 2020 and beyond. Sectors that are likely to grow are businesses capitalizing on Maine’s environmental quality, stores that are locally owned and managed, cooperatively structured businesses, those selling locally grown and manufactured products, businesses run by immigrants and “new Mainers” and those paying a “living wage” to employees.

“Maine has the potential to be a much more self-sustaining and economically vibrant place to live, if we patronize our local economic institutions,” said Jane Livingston, one of the organizers for the gathering and active in cooperative development in Maine. “There are so many advantages to our state with many strong locally based businesses. They just need to get the attention and support they deserve.”

The gathering is open to the public. Cost for the day is between $0-20 to make it affordable for all. Childcare is available to those who preregister, and a lunch is included as well. Those who want to attend can register by going to www.mainelocaleconomies.org or by calling 207-525-7776.


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