Hello this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.
You know, since I took office in 2019, Maine’s Gross Domestic Product, which is a key measure of economic growth, has increased by more than 10 percent. That’s the best rate of growth in New England and 9th the best rate of growth in the nation. In fact, Maine has experienced more economic growth over the last four years than it did in the previous fifteen years.
That’s great news – but we could do better. One big thing holding us back is our shortage of appropriately skilled workers. Everywhere I go, business leaders tell me they need more people to work, and right now, there are two available jobs for every person seeking a job in Maine. And with a low unemployment rate of 2.6, it makes it harder to find people eligible and ready to work.
To tackle this challenge, we need to reward companies who make investments in training and incentivize other businesses to begin doing that. So, this week, I introduced bipartisan legislation to do just that.
Back in 2003, when unemployment was high in Maine, legislators created the Pine Tree Development Zone Program to create more jobs. Under that program, eligible businesses could reduce their state taxes for up to ten years by creating new, quality jobs in certain businesses, or by moving existing jobs to Maine.
The Pine Tree Development Zone Program will expire at the end of this year, so now is the perfect time to remodel it and meet the current needs of Maine’s economy.
So, as I said, one of the greatest difficulties is the inability to fill many of the job openings we have with skilled workers. And we also need more private sector capital investment – particularly by businesses in promising, high-growth sectors.
So, my bill tackles these challenges by replacing the Pine Tree Development Zone program with a new one called “Dirigo Business Incentive."
The Dirigo Business Incentive program has a two-pronged approach:
- First, it’ll encourage businesses to train more people to succeed in the workforce by investing in qualified worker training programs.
- Second, it will attract and expand businesses in promising, high-value sectors through tax credits for capital investments.
Under the Dirigo Business Incentive program, businesses that pay to train three or more workers in an approved training program will receive a $2,000 tax credit per worker trained. Businesses across most of Maine would receive up to a 15 percent tax credit for capital investment, or a lower 7.5 percent credit for York, Cumberland, and Sagadahoc counties.
York and Cumberland counties will be eligible for investment incentives that they are not now generally eligible for under the Pine Tree Zones program. These new credits are specifically targeted towards high-value industries – such as manufacturing, agriculture, aquaculture, logging/forestry, freight, software, and certain professional services like scientific research – so we want to expand and attract these high growth sectors in Maine, and that’s how we do it.
This Dirigo Business Incentive will take effect in 2025, replacing the Pine Tree Zones Program, as well as several other tax credit programs.
For businesses already receiving Pine Tree Zone benefits, they will be able to keep them through the eligibility period and transition into the new program.
Modernizing Maine’s economic development benefits to tie them directly to capital investment and workforce training will allow Maine businesses to invest with confidence, keep Maine competitive with other states, and improve our workforce and strengthen the economy.
I want to thank Senate President Troy Jackson and House Majority Leader Maureen Terry for sponsoring this bill. I look forward to working with the Legislature and a variety of stakeholders so we can take another important step forward in strengthening our economy and improving the lives and livelihoods of all Maine people.
This is Governor Janet Mills, and thank you for listening.