The Maine economy is a complex, multifaceted machine, which is constantly changing and influenced by a wide variety of internal and external factors. I could easily exhaust every inch of this column talking about any minute part of this complex machine.

Understanding how our economy is working at a high level is therefore a complex issue. There are numerous different metrics we could look at, and each could give us a slightly different picture of what is happening in Maine’s economy. The Maine Development Foundation, and the Maine Economic Growth Council, on which I serve, have attempted to compile some of the most revealing metrics to see how Maine’s economy is doing in their 2019 Measures of Growth report. The report is a snapshot of the Maine economy as it looks today — a peek under the hood, if you will.

The topline number used to evaluate the Maine economy is our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is the market value of all the goods and services created in Maine over a given year. Maine’s GDP in 2017, the latest year for which we have data, was $55.6 billion. The rate of growth for Maine’s GDP was 1.9 percent, which is slightly below the national average of 2.2 percent, but above the New England average of 1.4 percent, so it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

Other topline numbers are more promising. Per person income grew by 3.7 percent to $46,455; overall employment jumped to 628,500 total jobs in 2018; and the poverty rate dropped from 12.3 percent in 2016 to 11.3 percent in 2017.

In addition to these high-level numbers, the report also looks at specific areas of our economy, as well as our communities and environment. Some of the facts and figures that we looked at while developing this report jumped out to me.

First of all, we are significantly underinvesting in research and development. We spend only 0.8 percent of our GDP on research and development, which puts us behind the rest of New England, and 45th in the country overall. And this number is only getting worse. If we want to be competitive and grow Maine jobs and businesses, we need to boost that number.

There are a few other areas in which we’re lagging, including broadband — only one in ten Mainers have a high-speed internet connection; working-age population, which fell below the national in 2014 and has continued to fall since; and the high cost of health care. These metrics hurt our ability to grow a strong, sustainable economy.

On the plus side, Maine once again had very high marks for our environmental quality. Our air quality in Maine continues to improve, particularly in the northern and central parts of the state. Our water quality and forest growth have also maintained strong numbers.

Another interesting high point from the report is our low crime rate. Maine’s crime rate, which has fallen almost 40 percent since 2008, is 16.3 reported crimes per 1,000 residents, which is well below the national rate of 27.5 reported crimes per 1,000 residents.

Our low crime rate and high marks on environmental quality are two reasons why Maine continues to be an attractive place for people to live and work. This probably isn’t a surprise to most of you — you live here and you know how great it is — but it’s important nonetheless.

If you have any questions or comments, I’d like to hear from you. I can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (207) 287-1515. I work for you, and you have a right to hold me accountable.