Maine needs to increase the size and skill level of its workforce to keep businesses in the state and attract new companies, three development groups said Thursday.

A report issued jointly by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Development Foundation and Educate Maine said the state’s quality of life, its workforce and its natural resources are all important factors that keep businesses in the state and attract others.

But the report, “Making Maine Work 2018,” says the state’s workforce is shrinking because of an aging population and because too many workers lack the skills needed in the current economy. The report also calls for expanding broadband access in the state; urges lawmakers to work to contain health care costs while expanding insurance access; and suggests the state develop a comprehensive economic strategy.

The report is modeled on a similar economic road map developed in 2010, when Maine was preparing to elect a new governor. The groups said the goal is to provide some suggestions for the incoming governor and lawmakers when they consider economic strategies for Maine.

Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, was elected the year the first report was developed and is wrapping up his second term. LePage is barred from running again and four candidates are vying to succeed him.

The report is based on a survey of more than 1,000 business and professional leaders who said increasing the size of the workforce – and improving those workers’ skills – is one of the biggest challenges facing the state. Controlling health insurance costs and expanding broadband access are also key concerns in the survey.

Eight years ago, the report says, the high costs of doing business, such as taxes, energy, health insurance and regulations, were the top concerns.

Since 2010, Maine’s population has grown only slightly, and the state has the highest median age – 44 – in the country, with more and more workers retiring. This year’s report says the state has to market itself as a career destination and provide college tuition incentives and debt forgiveness programs to get young people to move to the state. The report also calls for Maine to attract more foreign immigrants and help towns and cities integrate them into communities.

On workforce quality, the report says the state should set a goal of making sure 60 percent of workers get a “credential of value” – such as a college degree or training certificate – by 2025. The report also calls for upgraded public education.

The state should invest $100 million a year in expanded broadband, the three groups say, and make Maine a leader in controlling health care costs while expanding insurance coverage. Finally, the report says, the state should launch a public-private partnership to draft a comprehensive economic strategy under the new governor.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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