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Amy Volk (R-Scarborough)
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For Immediate Release

Date: 04/13/12

Rep. Volk's bill to evaluate state's economic development programs becomes law

AUGUSTA - Governor LePage has signed into law a bill sponsored by Rep. Amy Volk that seeks a comprehensive evaluation of state investments in economic development.

"We have a lot of economic development programs in the state, but we're not doing a great job at measuring their effectiveness," said Rep. Volk (R-Scarborough). "One of the principles of good business is that you have to measure results to get maximum performance. With this law, we begin a new era of making sure the state is getting a strong return on its investments."

The new law is based on LD 323, "An Act To Implement a Coordinated Strategy To Attract New Businesses, Expand Existing Businesses and Develop a Consistent and Recognizable Maine Brand." The measure passed the Legislature with strong bipartisan support.

The legislation encompasses an extensive number of changes designed to strengthen businesses, generate more employment and promote the sale of Maine goods and services. For example, it eliminates the Maine Tourism Commission and directs the state's Office of Tourism to seek direct input and consultation from the tourism industry on its marketing and promotional plans and the strategy to implement them.

Additionally, it requires the Office of Tourism to give quarterly presentations beginning next January to tourism industry stakeholders. The Office also must provide an annual report to the governor and the Legislature summarizing its goals and achievements.

"Through regular reporting on these programs, along with input from people who are directly affected through their work, we can begin honing in on which of our economic development strategies are most effective, while shedding light on those that are no longer useful," said Rep. Volk, who serves on the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee (LCRED).

To enhance oversight, the measure requires the commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) to report every two years on the overall performance of programs being evaluated, as demonstrated by the number of jobs created and increased state tax revenue. Candidates for evaluation could include such programs as the Loring Development Authority of Maine and the Pine Tree Development Zone program.

The new law introduces a sense of urgency to program reviews. For instance, it requires the DECD commissioner to convene at least five meetings with marketing personnel from eight departments to gather information on the marketing strategies they are employing in order to determine if the state can sell its goods and services more efficiently. The LCRED Committee is authorized to submit a bill to the next Legislature that could encompass the findings from these meetings.

Departments that will be involved in this effort include Inland Fisheries and Wildlife; Marine Resources; Transportation; Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources; Labor and Environmental Protection.

"By bringing all these marketing people together, we'll see the development of a consistent message to consumers regarding Maine products, employers and workers," Rep. Volk said.

The statute also seeks to stimulate start-up businesses. It amends the laws governing the Maine Rural Development Authority to allow it to provide loans to businesses that do not yet own real estate and are not supported by private investment. It also expands the definition of "qualified active low-income community business" to allow a business to qualify for a tax credit if it meets certain requirements for activity within municipalities where the annual unemployment rate is higher than the state's overall rate.

In addition, the measure changes DECD's Office of Innovation's comprehensive research and development evaluation from a five-year to a six-year project and changes its progress report timetable from annually to every two years. ###

Jay Finegan
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445