It’s increasingly hard to make ends meet in Maine. While a few areas of the state have seen relative growth and prosperity, most of the state’s communities have struggled and lost population for years and Mainers are expressing deep disillusionment with their economic, political and social institutions.
Free trade agreements and mechanization have resulted in a massive loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs that were the economic backbone for generations, and these communities have struggled to, at best, fill the void with a limited number of low-wage retail and service sector jobs. Affordable, quality housing is in as short a supply as good jobs. In some communities a lack of investment can lead to deteriorating quality of housing, while in other communities development pressures can push poor and working class people out. Economic pressures of a global food system are limiting farmers and fishermen ability to earn a fair living and many are losing access to the land and the sea.
The state’s many cooperative and employee owned businesses demonstrate how we can create a foundation for prosperity with equity in Maine’s next economy.
As a result, young people often leave the state for greater opportunity elsewhere and, for most families, financial security is hard to come by. Sadly, the divide between urban and rural, between prosperity and stagnation, is as wide in Maine as it is anywhere in our nation.
Politicians have made many promises to revive Maine’s economy and get the state back on its feet, but the promises have rung hollow for too many workers and communities. In order to improve, Maine needs to focus on strategies that bridge the partisan divide and help the state leverage the talent, strengths and values it already has at hand: hard workers, building shared prosperity.
The state’s many cooperative and employee owned businesses demonstrate how we can create a foundation for prosperity with equity in Maine’s next economy. Whether the business is a grocery store in Stonington or an immigrant-run farm in Lewiston, Maine’s cooperatives are keeping jobs in the state and employing newcomers. Cooperatives are an often overlooked part of Maine’s economy, but point the way to more stability—and with that, the dignity and freedom that come from greater economic security.
A new report from the Cooperative Development Institute offers a look at Maine’s co-op sector and what can be done to grow it. The report profiles many existing cooperatives and describes strategies for strengthening the sector that have proved successful in the US and beyond. The report offers numerous case studies of regions where there are much stronger cooperative sectors, and the outcomes are impressive: stronger economies and communities, higher wages, more innovation and entrepreneurship, and lower levels of inequality.
Find out how cooperatives can help Maine grow at Maine.coop.