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Good morning. This is Governor John Baldacci.

This week, in cooperation with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, I attended the Governor’s Job Summit.

The event brought together representatives from more than 75 of Maine’s leading businesses for an open and honest discussion about the economy and about how best to create jobs.

Maine’s unemployment rate is about 8 percent, better than the national average of about 10 percent, but still too high.

The focus of the Summit was to hear from businesses about how they have been able to protect and grow jobs.

Even during this difficult economic time, these businesses have been successful and, in some cases even growing.

There is no single answer to creating jobs.

But we did hear common themes and discussed ideas about how many can improve its business climate.

During the summit, business leaders broke into smaller groups with a moderator, representatives from my administration, State lawmakers and federal partners.

They covered a lot of topics and the work they did will help Maine tailor its efforts to help companies create jobs.

In some areas, Maine is doing well.

We heard that our efforts to help business improve energy efficiency are paying real dividends.

The programs we have in place, particularly those through EfficiencyMaine, are creating and saving jobs right now.

But we must keep working toward greater energy independence and grow our renewable energy industries.

We also heard from businesses that they need stability and predictability in State programs.

They also need simple access for economic development programs and a clear process for obtaining permits.

We are already working to make it easier for companies to get information and navigate the rules.

I have proposed a new structure for Maine’s Department of Economic Development that will streamline outreach, make it easier for companies to receive assistance and reduce duplication.

Maine has good economic tools and experts available, and we can do better using them to help businesses create jobs.

I also heard on Tuesday that Maine needs effective transportation to move goods within our State and beyond.

This has been a focus of my administration for seven years, and recently we’ve made significant progress.

With critical federal support, we will be expanding passenger rail service north of Portland to Freeport and Brunswick.

While the additional passenger service will be a boost to tourism, reduce traffic congestion and pollution, and help Maine’s Midcoast region recover from the closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station, the expansion does much more.

It will improve freight rail in our State and is a necessary step in improving service to Auburn and Lewiston.

We are also working through the Maine Department of Transportation to ensure that we have continued rail service in Northern Maine.

The rail line that serves northern Maine, from Millinocket to Madawaska, Houlton and Presque Isle is facing serious difficulties.

My administration is working hard to ensure that industries in the region and those communities stay connected.

If we want businesses to invest in job creation, we must have a skilled and educated workforce.

I was particular impressed with the ideas I heard on this topic.

Business leaders at the summit told me that they know they have to part of the solution for a better education system.

There are great opportunities for companies to develop partnerships with high schools, colleges and universities.

To build connections and become mentors.

And to help students to build aspirations and nurture ambition.

Maine is blessed with many successful, growing and innovative companies.

They are doing amazing and inspiring work.

By partnering with schools, they can help introduce our students to the world of possibilities that exist while at the same time helping to develop the workforce that we need for a modern economy.

During the last two months, we have seen signs that Maine’s economy is beginning to turn around.

But the recovery remains fragile, and job creation is lagging behind.

In December, I presented plans to close a $438 million dollar gap in the State budget.

My plans include many difficult choices, including major reductions in State spending.

While we have an obligation to protect the most vulnerable, we must also strike a careful balance to make sure government takes no action that could threaten economic recovery.

It’s a hard line to walk, but I don’t believe Maine’s families and businesses can afford higher taxes.

As I work with the Legislature to close the budget gap, I am committed to doing what’s necessary to safeguard our economy and put us in the strongest position for economic recovery.

I want thank the many business and community leaders, including the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, for their valuable insights during the Governor’s Job Summit.

We will continue to work with Dana Connors and the Chamber and other businesses to improve Maine’s business climate and to create new jobs.

Thank you for listening and have a good holiday weekend.

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