As a longtime member of the Maine Economic Growth Council and co-chair for the recent “Measures of Growth In Focus” report, I have a high regard for the report and its value to Maine. This 20th annual report is the result of the council’s statutory mandate to develop a vision and goals for the state’s long-term economic growth.

The Measures of Growth report has been regularly revised over the years to provide our readership with the most current overview of Maine’s progress toward long-term, sustainable economic growth, and toward the council’s vision of a high quality of life for all Maine people. The council believes that a vibrant and sustainable economy supported by vital communities and a healthy environment are essential to achieving this vision.

It is often said that if you have too many priorities, in reality you have no true priorities. Ten years ago, the 2004 edition of Measures of Growth included 58 indicators. Since then, the council has opted to include only what it deems to be the most critical factors that support the vision of the report. The current report includes 27 indicators that collectively provide a comprehensive perspective on Maine’s economy. The treatment of each indicator is necessarily brief, and each indicator has an important story to tell about how Maine’s economy is performing. Although the indicators are treated separately, many of them are interrelated and affect each other. The report must therefore be looked at comprehensively to give a full picture.

As one example, Maine’s poverty rate has increased modestly but steadily in recent years. This indicator is to a large extent a reflection of Maine’s performance on a number of other indicators that contribute to our poverty rate. At the same time, poverty is a foundational issue that presents challenges for people in terms of educational attainment, health status, employment and earnings. Both individuals and the state suffer when people are not able to realize their full potential. Alleviating poverty, its causes and its effects is thus a critical component of improving Maine’s performance on a number of other indicators and moving us toward the larger goal.

The council does not add or remove indicators lightly, and it fully explores and weighs the importance of existing indicators or potential new ones to ensure that only the most meaningful topics are included and, further, that they are grounded in the best and most current data. The council feels that tracking progress on the specific indicators in the report tells us where we are and how far we still have to go.

As legislators, we have the opportunity to be guided by and to affect many of these indicators. Reaching the benchmarks, however, requires a collective effort from all sectors — and from each of us as individuals. We all stand to benefit by a more vibrant, sustainable Maine economy, and we all have a role to play in moving Maine forward. As legislators, we regularly confront and deal with a range of issues that affect Maine’s economy, communities and environment. As a legislator and Growth Council member, I believe and hope that this report will help focus our attention and efforts as we seek to achieve a high quality of life for all Maine people.

State Sen. Eloise Vitelli represents Senate District 19; is director of program and policy development for the Maine Centers for Women, Work, and Community; and is co-chair of the Maine Economic Growth Council.