Leadership Summit: Business + Legislative leadership = understanding

What do you get when you combine business leaders with Statehouse leaders and put them together in a hotel high up on a mountain on Sunday River?   

Answer:  Conversation, collaboration, education, information and understanding.  

I had the privilege to attend the 2018 Leadership Summit organized by the Maine State Chamber February 1 and 2.  Attendees included business owners and leaders from Portland to MDI to Madawaska along with Legislative leadership, Chancellors and Presidents from educational institutions, economic development leaders and representatives from Chambers of Commerce.  The event was held at the Jordan Hotel high up on a mountain in Sunday River.  The location meant that for two days we were not going anywhere, affording us the opportunity to focus on the program and the reason we were there.

Kudos to the Maine State Chamber for organizing this event and for a program that was meant to encourage conversation.  Following an opening reception and dinner presentation from a panel of Legislative leaders discussing the priorities and hot topics this session, we convened in break out groups the following day.  The business leaders stayed in one room while Legislative leaders moved from room to room to discuss the following topics:

  • Education & Workforce
  • Workplace Issues
  • Taxation and Citizen’s Initiatives
  • Investments and Infrastructure

The conversations were open, informative and sometimes lively as the business community shared their thoughts, insights and concerns with our representatives from both sides of the aisle who represent both large and small communities in Maine.   

This led to an understanding of the challenges faced by businesses and the challenges faced by those who represent us in Augusta.  At the end of the day, everyone gathered together and a representative from the groups above provided a summary of the discussions that occurred throughout the day.  Our hosts, the Maine State Chamber will be providing a summary of these conversations and I will share them with you, once received.

In the meantime, here are some highlights from my notes.  There were differing opinions on some of these topics, agreement on others and more questions than answers on others.  Understanding the questions is the first step to finding the answers.

  • Education & Workforce

Critical need to grow our workforce – we have a numbers problem. In 15 years we will lose 15% of our workforce.

 

Educational institutions are working to be more “nimble” to adapt to the needs to employers and to partner closely with one another (community college system and UMaine for example).

Employers, state government and educational institutions need to engage and work together to address our workforce needs of the future.

Need to understand the changing workforce to attract younger workers, retain the older population (offer flexibility) and to be more open and welcoming of immigrants.

Need to address needs of adults not working due to the opioid crisis, child care issues, etc.

The issue of our tax rates as it relates to workforce attraction and retention.

Maine does have a positive “brand” to attract workers – we need to be promoting that!

  • Workplace Issues

Marijuana legalization and concerns of employers especially those who conduct drug testing in the workplace.  Many questions still surround this and employers are concerned about understanding and complying with the law.   

Paid FMLA leave, minimum wage, exempt and non-exempt workers, overtime conformity all led to engaging and meaningful conversations.

  • Taxation and Citizen’s Initiatives

Businesses discussed predictability and stability when it comes to the tax code.

Discussions about tax conformity with the Federal tax law changes:  work in progress.

Pine Tree Zones:  What and whom has benefitted, accountability and transparency.

What can we do to make Maine more attractive and competitive to business and workers?

Citizen’s Initiatives:  Much discussion about the process and the implications.  What works well and what should be changed?  What this means for the Legislature when it comes to their current work/priorities and future work/priorities.

  • Investments & Infrastructure

Transportation:  How do we close the funding gap?

Broadband:  Progress is being made – but how do we get to the “last mile”?

Energy:  Discussion about predictable energy policies to attract new business investment.

Water:  Should proactively start looking ahead and be proactive with our policies.

R&D Bond was discussed.

Thanks again to the Maine State Chamber for organizing this event and for the opportunity to participate.

~Deb

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