An annual report measuring 27 indicators of Maine’s economy, health and environment found the state’s cost of doing business and industrial energy costs have dropped in recent years but remain higher than national averages.
The annual Measures of Growth survey — in its 21st year — tracks Maine’s performance against a variety of goals set by the Maine Economic Growth Council and the Maine Development Foundation. The annual study compares the state with itself over time or with other regions, using the most recently available data.
“The indicators represent the specific areas the council believes are most relevant to Maine’s long-term economic growth,” the report states.
The latest report found Maine made no significant progress on most measures, improving on four and worsening on seven. The areas of improvement were in residential and industrial energy costs, the cost of doing business, housing affordability and air quality metrics.
Maine lost ground for a widening income disparity between men and women from 2012 to 2013, an increase in the overweight and obesity rate, road quality ratings, new business starts, international exports, a decline in the workforce in 2014 and the “fundamental performance indicator” of gross domestic product.
Within some of those indicators, positive notes can be found. While lagging the report’s goals for new business starts, Maine’s rank for business starts improved consistently from 2007 to 2013, rising to 19th from 29th in 2010 and 31st in 2007.
In addition to tracking progress, the report doles out stars and red flags to areas of performance deemed particularly good or bad. The state got one gold star for improvements in water quality and five red flags — two of those red flags overlap with areas where the state lost ground.
The report handed red flags to areas the Maine Economic Growth Council identified as particular concerns for Maine’s long-term economic prospects.
The report highlighted lagging research and development investment as one such area of concern, though the data on such spending have not been updated since 2011. The latest report provides a new comparison, however, comparing Maine’s figures to a group of 28 mostly large and rural states as well as the national and New England averages. In 2011, research and development spending equaled about 1 percent of the Maine’s economic output, compared with 1.7 percent for similar states, 2.9 percent for the nation and 4.4 percent for New England.
High-speed Internet subscription was the report’s second area of concern, with Maine trailing similar states and the national average rates for broadband subscription. The report found that in 2013 Maine had 765 high-speed Internet subscribers per 1,000 people, behind a national average of 871.
The report also flagged fourth-grade reading scores as an area of concern, with Maine’s percentage of fourth-graders reading proficiently mostly unchanged from 2007 to 2013. The state, at 37 percent proficiency, exceeded the national average of 34 percent in 2013 and continued to rank behind the New England average of 42 percent. State and national levels also remained largely unchanged from 2007 to 2013.
Road conditions got a red flag for falling short of the growth council’s goal to have 76 percent of the state’s major roads receive a rating of fair or better. In 2013, 69 percent of the state’s priority one and two roads got such a rating.
Although in line with the national average, the report also dished out a red flag to the percentage of overweight and obese adults in the state, finding the overweight and obesity rates in the state increased from 2007 to 2013.