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Politics
For MPBN's Your Vote 2014 live election results, click here.MPBN’s elections compendium is brought to you by AARP, MEMIC and Lambert Coffin.Debates:Click here to watch the 1st Congressional District debateClick here to watch the 2nd Congressional District debateClick here to watch the Senate debateClick here to watch the gubernatorial debateResources:Gubernatorial Race: GridPaul LePage (R)Mike Michaud (D): Profile, Maine Calling interviewEliot Cutler (I): Maine Calling interviewSenate Race: GridSusan Collins (R): Profile, Maine Calling interviewShenna Bellows (D): Profile, Maine Calling interview1st District Congressional Race: GridChellie Pingree (D): Profile, Maine Calling interviewIsaac Misiuk (R): Profile, Maine Calling interviewRichard Murphy (I): Profile, Maine Calling interview2nd District Congressional Race: GridEmily Cain (D): Profile, Maine Calling interviewBruce Poliquin (R): Profile, Maine Calling interviewBlaine Richardson (I): Profile, Maine Calling interviewFor a list of referendum questions, click here.

Cutler Rolls Out Plan for Boosting Maine's Economy

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Patty Wight
/
MPBN

OLD TOWN, Maine - One of the biggest issues in the race for governor in Maine this year is the state of the economy and the need for jobs. Independent Eliot Cutler today vowed that, if elected, he would launch an initiative to position the state to compete in the global economy. Cutler today rolled out his jobs and economy plan, crafted to groom a better-trained work force, rebuild the state's infrastructure and revitalize Maine's competitive position through an ambitious branding campaign. Still, Cutler's opponents say there's nothing new in the candidate's latest proposal.

Three months after being sworn into office, Republican Gov. Paul LePage unveiled his "Open For Business" sign on Interstate 95 in Kittery as an attempt to encourage businesses to come to Maine. Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler says LePage's move was simply the first of many grandstanding efforts that fell on its face.

"The governor went down and put the sign up and we're open for business," Cutler said. "The fact is that business isn't coming here because we haven't created the right conditions for business to come here."

Cutler says his experience in business will aid him in advancing the state from a reliance on 20th century approaches, to an embrace of the technical and marketing skills that today's new global economy demands. He says both LePage and Democratic challenger Mike Michaud have failed to present plans to boost the state's image across the nation and overseas.

"The governor, I don't think, understands the importance of branding the state of Maine," Cutler said. "We are competing now in a world market of 6 to 8 billion people. We need to develop a real brand for our tourist industry, which is the biggest industry in the state. For everything that we make and produce, a brand that spells out Maine's innovation, quality, integrity that causes people to put a higher value on who we are, what we do, what we make and what we sell. I know how to do that."

Cutler rolled out his plan in Old Town, a community where his grandfather once operated a men's clothing store, and one of the state's latest mass job casualty sites as the result of the closure Old Town Fuel and Fiber and the ensuing furlough of 180 workers. Cutler says that while some traditional natural resource-based industries may not be able to compete globally, new ones are emerging to take their place. He says Mainers have the work ethic needed to compete for these new jobs, but what they lack in many instances is training and education.

"If you go around the state, as I have for months and months and months and months, and you talk to owners of businesses in the state of Maine, who, by the way, create 95 percent of all the new jobs in the state, you ask them what the number one problem is, their number one challenge. They don't say taxes, they don't say energy costs - they say we need a skilled, well-trained, educated and healthy work force," Cutler said.

In addition to more training for workers, Cutler says he will launch an aggressive infrastructure upgrade to repair the state's deteriorating bridges, and expand access to rail and port opportunities. Relying on strategic borrowing at historically low interest rates, Cutler would also seek to upgrade the state's fiber optic network to increase broadband speed.

"Too many of our elected leaders, including the two opponents I'm running against in this election, have their heads and their eyes firmly stuck in the rear view mirror," Cutler said. "That is not where we're going to find Maine's future."

"Eliot continues to roll out, and talk about, the same tired policies that he talked about nearly a year ago. What we need is a governor who actually has a real vision," says Lizzy Reinholt, the communications director for Mike Michaud's campaign.

And that governor, says Reinholt, should be Mike Michaud. Reinholt says Michaud's economic plan includes making Maine the bread basket of New England. LePage spokesman Alex Willette says that while several of Cutler's proposals were compelling, the initiatives were actually borrowed from LePage.

"It's interesting that Eliot would criticize the governor when his platform is largely similar to the things Gov. LePage has done, or is planning on doing, in a second term," Willette says.

All of the candidates face a low bar for improving the state's economy next year. Forbes Magazine has listed Maine as the worst state in the country for business for the past four years.