Microbusinesses: More than 130,000 in Maine Helping to Boost Economy

August 6, 2013

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, August 6
Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary (207) 287-2531

AUGUSTA – Small businesses throughout Maine drive the economy and provide hundreds of thousands of jobs to Maine people. More than 133,000 Maine businesses are microenterprises or businesses that have five or fewer employees. In an effort to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing these businesses, Governor Paul R. LePage met Tuesday with several microenterprise owners.

Micro-entrepreneurs, which are part of every industry and are located in every Maine County provide 171,407 jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The bulk of those employees are in Cumberland and York Counties; however, microenterprises employ thousands of people in less populous counties across the state. For example, in Piscataquis County there are more than 2,000 microbusinesses which make up 25 percent of the county’s employed population. In Lincoln County nearly 40 percent of the population is employed by a business with 5 or fewer employees.

Governor LePage and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner George Gervais met with several micro-entrepreneurs for about two hours Tuesday to discuss challenges facing these small business owners. Among the challenges: access to money for the start-up of the business and internet accessibility. Microenterprises require $35,000 or less in initial capital and do not typically have access to traditional commercial loans.

While nearly all of the State – 91 percent – has broadband internet access, the State continues to improve availability. The State has collaborated with The ConnectME Authority to expand broadband internet access to unserved and underserved areas and in planning expansion throughout Maine. ConnectME recently awarded 15 grants to expand broadband communications services to unserved areas of Maine. Recipients were awarded more than $1 million with total project costs of nearly $1.6 million, expanding services to more than 1000 households and businesses.

“Microenterprises start small, but can grow into large businesses,” said Governor LePage. “We must be able to support these growing businesses because they are a critical driver of our economy. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Maine, and where jobs have been cut, people are creating new ones.”

Governor LePage noted while Maine’s median household income is less than the national average, studies show that micro-entrepreneur’s household incomes increase 78 percent in two years and 91 percent over five years.

Nicole Snow, a U.S. Air Force veteran, started Darn Good Yarn in the small town of Sebec in Piscataquis County. In early 2008, Nicole Snow decided to take two of her passions in life—art and helping others—and combine them. The result was “Darn Good Yarn,” a yarn and fiber importer, wholesaler, and retailer.

“It is refreshing to see that Governor LePage understands how businesses work and what is needed to thrive in today’s economy,” said Snow, who visited with Governor LePage to discuss the importance of microbusinesses. “Sometimes we need to think outside the box in terms of what policies are needed to help Maine businesses, and today’s meeting was an indication that there are good things to come.”

Programs that support microenterprises offer aspiring entrepreneurs like Snow the opportunity to make their dreams become a reality. Programs such as Maine Small Business Development Centers (Maine SBDC) are working with entrepreneurs to create more jobs and opportunities for the people of Maine.
Mark Delisle, State Director Maine SBDC in Portland, said the State and private sector can work together to provide long-term economic stability to the state.

“With over 133,000 microenterprises, Maine is truly a small business state. We are excited about the opportunity to join Governor LePage in helping these entrepreneurs grow their businesses by providing the right resources, expertise and advice,” Delisle said.