Down East 2013 ©
Thanks for reading our new "Innovacationland" blog from GrowSmart Maine  . We'll be using this space to highlight some of the state's best new ideas — cutting-edge new businesses and industries, initiatives to modernize public services, revitalization efforts in Maine's historic downtown areas, and other projects that will help grow the state's economy while enhancing its world-renowned "quality of place."
Since we published the "Charting Maine's Future " report with the Brookings Institution in 2006 , our organization and our grassroots allies have made some significant accomplishments towards preserving Maine's landscapes, creating new economic opportunities, and spending our limited fiscal resources more wisely.
For example: Mainers approved a $50 million research and development bond  that is already creating new jobs and private-sector investments throughout our state. The state also has a new plan to leverage Maine's "quality of place " as an economic development tool , and a new tax credit on historic preservation projects will help preserve Maine's historic resources while also revitalizing our downtowns and villages  with new businesses and households .
On the government efficiency front, legislators approved a plan to replace dozens of conflicting and locally-administered building codes  with a single statewide standard. Efforts are well underway to reduce the number of school administrators to spend a greater proportion of education funding in the classroom, and last winter, the state and counties hammered out an agreement to streamline the state's corrections system.
The report's been out for nearly two years now, and while we've accomplished a lot, there are also new issues emerging that also demand the state's attention. Rising energy costs are creating extreme hardship for thousands of Mainers, especially in rural areas, and climate change has emerged as a top environmental concern. At the same time, persistent budget shortfalls, caused largely by rising health care costs and an aging population, are undermining the government's ability to serve its citizens well.
GrowSmart Maine is now looking beyond the Brookings report at two new projects. One, "Governing Maine in the 21st Century, " aims to craft a long-term plan for modernizing Maine's governments, at all levels. Instead of responding to shortfalls with meat-cleaver cuts, this report will aim to create a productive, farsighted plan that actually makes government services work better, at lower costs.
The second, "Climate, Energy, and Prosperity ," will seek ways to address the linked problems of climate change and energy prices with a new focus on the state's "green innovation" sector. By finding new markets and uses for our abundant natural resources, Maine might be able to revitalize its rural working landscapes, create new jobs, and attain sustainable prosperity.
There's a lot of good work being done in these areas all over the state already, and in this blog, we aim to highlight some of the new businesses, ideas, and collaborations that are working towards solving these issues and moving Maine forward. Thanks for reading!
Christian McNeil is the communications director for GrowSmart Maine. He will be sharing news of new business efforts and initiatives in Maine via this blog.