If 2023 is to become a year of economic growth in Maine, the state’s economic leaders need every tool in their toolbox. Whatever can be done to bring businesses and jobs to the Pine Tree State should be done.

As the head of FirstPark, one of Maine’s leading business parks, I work to open our doors to companies looking to relocate or expand in central Maine. In recent months, we have attracted an information technology and cyber security firm and a high-tech manufacturing company supplying a variety of precision components to the aerospace and gas turbine engine industries.

One of the most important tools in my toolbox is the Pine Tree Development Zone Program (PTDZ). Created by the Maine State Legislature in 2003, PTDZ offers state income tax credits and sales tax exemptions to local businesses that create jobs with higher-than-average wages in certain industries. The program is currently up for renewal, with Maine policymakers debating whether or not to continue supporting companies with such credits and exemptions.

PTDZ needs to remain a staple for economic development in Maine. We need to continue rewarding employers who create good-paying jobs for employees. Just like in 2018, when the legislature extended PTDZ, policymakers should make business attraction and retention a top priority now. Business parks like FirstPark, for example, leverage the program to court new prospects and get deals across the finish line. In many ways, PTDZ is the “hammer” in our toolbox, persuading companies that may otherwise remain on the fence or reject Maine altogether to choose us instead.

PTDZ’s opponents may be well-intentioned, but they are also shortsighted in their opposition, and the business community is on notice. Few viable alternatives, if any, have been suggested to replace the program, so removing it would leave a gaping hole in Maine’s broader economic growth agenda. Doing away with the program will put Maine economic development at a competitive disadvantage to neighboring states and beyond the Northeast region.

When reconsidering economic development programs, Mainers always need to consider the alternatives, in the same way that business owners weigh the alternatives when choosing whether to work in Maine or not. States like Maine are in a constant state of competition for good-paying jobs and opportunities for career advancement. In the Northeast and other parts of the country, there are plenty of states with robust economic development programs that make them more attractive destinations for private-sector entrepreneurship and innovation. Southern states like Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia are well-known as emerging business hubs.


As Mainers, do we want to slip behind our competitors? Or do we want to win the race for economic growth? The answer is clear: Maine can and should position itself as the national leader for new economic development this year — not in the future, but now.

There’s no reason not to promote our state. From beautiful scenery and exciting outdoor activities to vibrant urban centers and world-class hospitality, Maine provides employers and employees with a wide range of benefits. The state is also extremely well-connected, with FirstPark and other business destinations located in close proximity to airports, bus and train stations, and the interstate highway system. That’s how we put our “can-do” spirit into practice.

As the Pine Tree Development Zone debate continues, there are really two options: Economic slippage or economic growth — robust growth in 2023 and beyond. I know where I stand. Maine policymakers should do the right thing, extend the PTDZ program, and help power the Pine Tree State into a brighter future.

Jim Dinkle serves as executive director of FirstPark in Oakland.

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