Issues of Impact 2016

An important part of fulfilling the Chamber’s mission “To promote and advance a vital, healthy business environment” involves advocating for public policy that will help our region prosper and grow.

Rather than react to what policy makers propose, the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce seeks to define its agenda and bring it forward.

“Issues of Impact” outlines the policies that the Chamber believes will most help its members. Drafted in the Chamber’s Governmental Affairs Committee, the document was endorsed by the Chamber’s Board of Directors.



HEALTH CARE

Health care remains a chief concern among employers as a significant cost of doing business and a driver of public sector costs.  The Chamber supports:


•   Continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as well as careful monitoring of the law’s unintended consequences.

•   The amendment of the ACA to mitigate penalties on small business and redefine full-time employees as those working 40 hours per week.

•   Expansion of MaineCare/Medicaid in Maine to fully leverage available federal dollars under the ACA.

•   Development of healthcare delivery models such as accountable care organizations (ACO) that help reduce the cost of providing care to Maine’s citizens and the transition of the MaineCare program from a fee for service benefit to an ACO model.

•   Implementation of a comprehensive plan to support the needs of Maine’s aging population, including innovative community-based and facility-based healthcare services.

•   Maintaining support for the Fund for Healthy Maine as a fiscal priority, as the Healthy Maine Partnerships are vital to Maine’s public health infrastructure.




ENERGY

The Chamber endorses an energy policy that makes paramount the goal of lowering the cost of energy for all Mainers.  As a result, the State, regulators, generators, and local utilities should continue to pursue strategic investments in all energy forms that lower the overall cost of energy. The Chamber supports:


•   Fully leveraging the state Omnibus Energy Act of 2013 to increase the supply of natural gas in the state and the region, including support for new regional infrastructure to relieve the gas supply bottleneck.

•   Further development of wind generation, bio-fuel manufacturing, hydro turbines, and geothermal technologies as well as the application of alternative energy in transportation to lower the overall cost of energy.

•   Development and deployment of energy conservation and efficiency and strategies as well as policies that encourage businesses to upgrade inefficient heating and lighting systems.

• Exploring collaboration with Canada such as an energy corridor through Maine and/or the purchase of Canadian energy to lower Maine energy costs.




EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

A continuum of lifelong educational opportunity and achievement is essential to the region’s economic health and quality of life. Without an educated and globally competitive workforce, the region cannot succeed. The Chamber supports:


•   Expanded access to early childhood education programs as a funding priority.

•   Continued effort by the Legislature to reach the 55 percent commitment to pay for General Purpose Aid for costs associated with K-12 education, bearing in mind the need to keep the tax burden from growing.

•   Efforts to improve the cost-effectiveness of public primary and secondary education combined with continued use of public funding to keep college affordable through tuition support, financial aid and student loan forgiveness programs.

•   Educational partnerships that increase the number of college-bound high school seniors.

•   Support for integrating returning veterans into the community and the regional workforce.

•   Establishment of grants to expand workforce development programs, including private employee training.



RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT/COMMERCIALIZATION


The future of our region’s economy is tied closely to investments in research, development, and commercialization and should be advanced by public-private partnerships. The Chamber supports:


•   Efforts to raise public awareness and understanding of the value of R&D to Maine’s economy.

•   Execution of the state’s 2010 Science and Technology Action Plan calling for “an environment where science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship stimulate Maine’s economy,” as well as the goal of R& D activity equaling three percent of gross state product.

•   Fully leveraging R&D investments approved by voters in 2014, and continued support for allocating money to competitive funds to maximize R&D investments.

•   Leveraging the work of business accelerators and incubators aimed at converting research into new business opportunities.




TRANSPORTATION


Transportation is a key component of economic growth. As such, the Chamber supports maintaining our diverse modes of transportation. The Chamber supports:


•   A comprehensive state plan for repair, maintenance, and expansion of our roads and bridges, with federal funding, bond funds, and other resources allocated in accordance with these priorities.

•   Preservation of an “intact” rail network capable of providing commercial freight service to points in Maine and beyond, with special emphasis on the east-west rail connection to Montreal.

•   Expansion of passenger, freight, ground services, and allied businesses at Bangor International Airport.

•   Development of the Searsport cargo terminal, including dredging to maintain its viability and competitiveness, and further development of the Port of Eastport.

•   Public transportation and pedestrian amenities that serve the needs of the region’s population that enhance the livability of our downtowns and other centers of commerce.




REGIONAL CONNECTIVITY AND COMMUNICATIONS


Broadband capacity and communication capabilities, as well as a growing awareness of the importance of digital literacy, are critical components to economic development, and continue to be a growing strength in this region. These technologies are crucial to eliminating geography as a concern with respect to economic growth. Increased broadband connection is necessary for the Bangor Region to be successful. The Chamber supports:


•   Leveraging assets to bring data centers to our region.

•   Economic development strategies to attract companies with a high demand for bandwidth, leveraging the “backbone” assets now in place.

•   Public and business policies and investments that will allow for greater penetration of broadband in our market, especially ultra-high-speed connections used by technology companies.

•   Improved broadband for health care in Maine by ensuring the availability and reliability of telemedicine; which is especially critical for patients in the State’s more rural areas.




REGIONAL COLLABORATION


Regional collaboration offers the opportunity to use public, private and nonprofit resources more effectively. The Chamber supports working with area chambers of commerce in the four-county region under a Regional Resources Council, to identify criteria and approaches to align businesses, governments, and educational institutions around a transformative Continuous Learning Region, to include:


•   Developing the workforce and nurturing entrepreneurship.

•   Encouraging public-private collaboration.

•   Fostering collaboration among institutions of higher education to better align educational opportunities with the needs of local businesses and communities.

•   Encouraging cooperative efforts among regional healthcare providers to improve quality and reduce costs, and to address critical systemic issues, including substance abuse in our region

•   Encouraging collaborative efforts by local governments to realize cost savings and better serve our communities. An expanded role for county government should be part of this conversation.




SOCIAL IMPACT


Social stability is the foundation of all communities and the catalyst for future growth. The Chamber regards certain social issues, such as dependence on illegal drugs, domestic violence and violent crime, and poverty and homelessness, as direct threats to future economic development. Working toward solutions to these various social issues is necessary to spur economic growth in the Bangor Region. The Chamber also recognizes these social issues are complex and multi-faceted. By addressing these social issues families are provided a better quality of life and the community creates a more stable and productive workforce. The Chamber supports:


•   Measures designed to reduce substance and other addictions which affect so many Maine people.

•   Measures designed to reduce instances of domestic violence and child abuse, and provide support for victims.

•   Measures designed to reduce poverty and homelessness, especially among children and young adults who represent the future of our community and economy.