BANGOR DAILY NEWS: Maine trails rest of New England in advanced manufacturing
As originally appearing in The Bangor Daily News

By Darren Fishell, BDN Staff
Posted April 08, 2015, at 7:59 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — New England is primed to compete with other regions in advanced manufacturing, according to a study released Wednesday, but Maine’s share of such jobs lags behind the rest of the region.

The study, commissioned by the New England Council and completed by national consulting firm Deloitte, reviewed federal data sources and solicited input from regional experts to compare the competitive advantages of the region for advanced manufacturing jobs, such as biotechnology and precision machining.

The new study updates a 2009 report.

The latest study found that about 40 percent of Maine’s manufacturing jobs are in areas it deemed “advanced manufacturing,” compared to an average of about 59 percent for the entire region, according to 2012 job sector figures.

While lagging as an overall share of the economy, the study found Maine excelled in several specific areas, including aerospace and defense. The state ranks behind others in the region in the area of medical devices and biotechnology when measured by per-capita value of shipments.

The study overall suggests strategies to boost development in New England of technologies in optics, measurement and navigation; aerospace and defense; medical devices and technology; semiconductors and complex electronics; and precision machining.

The study also estimated the costs of doing business for metropolitan areas in New England, looking only at the Portland area in Maine. The study compared wages, real estate costs, energy and tax rates for various New England cities against a “low-cost county” in a southern state.

That comparison found all New England cities studied were disadvantaged compared by energy costs and state and local taxes but competitive on wages and rents with the exception of Boston.

In addition to Portland and Boston, that analysis looked at costs in Keene, New Hampshire; Burlington, Vermont; Pawtucket, Rhode Island; New Bedford, Massachusetts; and New Britain, Connecticut.

The study suggests strategies for the region to develop more advanced manufacturing, citing examples in Maine that include seed funding through the Maine Technology Institute and Thornton Academy’s partnership with the National Tooling and Machining Association that allow students to earn a certificate in precision manufacturing.

Region-wide, the study suggests New England could become a standout nationally for advanced manufacturing if it improves educational options and apprenticeships related to advance manufacturing; rebrands manufacturing in general “to reflect the high pay, critical thinking, advanced technologies and designs” of advanced manufacturing; secures a federal Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation grant; and develops research and development incentives and assistance with intellectual property issues.

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