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I have some good news to report this weekend.

On Thursday, Maine welcomed to the state a major new employer.

athenahealthcare. They’re going to bring their company to Belfast, Maine, creating hundreds of new jobs.

athenahealthcare is an impressive company. It has been honored as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Massachusetts, they’ve had the third most successful Initial Public Offering of 2007, and they’re committed to being the employer-of-choice for the Belfast region.

These are good paying jobs with benefits. They’re not only going to help the individual workers, but they’re going to be able to strengthen an entire community.

The company helps doctors focus on taking care of their patients. It puts this Web-based technology to work to provide business services to doctors’ offices. Freed up from billing, collections and dealing with insurance companies, the doctors can concentrate on health care, which is what they were trained and educated for.

To bring athenahealthcare here, Maine had to win a fierce competition with five other states.

Working cooperatively on the local, state and federal level, Maine was able to beat out Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.

Maine won the multi-state competition because we created the economic incentives -- like Pine Tree Zones, our workers training program -- that make the state attractive.

We won because our workforce ranks among the best in the country, and we have the available real estate resources to meet the needs of a large and growing company.

And we won because we were able to marshal the resources of Maine & Co., working collaboratively with Bank of America and bringing together support from our congressional delegation, the state departments and the Belfast area specifically.

Our economy in Maine continues to grow. But like most other states and the country as a whole, we aren’t growing as quickly as we’d like.

Maine has gained almost 4,000 jobs since last October. But if we want to be prosperous, we have to remain committed to two tracks of economic development.

First, we must aggressively pursue companies like athenahealthcare that can create good jobs and provide workers with the platform skills they need to advance in new careers.

When these quality jobs come to the state, they help to raise incomes. As we hold taxes steady, our per capita tax burden goes down and that’s progress. Maybe not as fast as we would like, but progress nonetheless.

And we have to continue to work to constrain administrative government spending. Right now, we have more administration than we can afford – at all levels – local, school, county and state.

We’ve got an opportunity to make more structural changes to put Maine on firmer financial footing.

In January, we are going to change to our education reform law that’s going to make it even easier for school districts to join together. We’re going to break down the walls and the silos that are holding back some districts.

The days when Maine could afford 290 school districts’ administration are long gone. The new law we passed earlier this year is going to create a new education system that’s going to focus on better outcomes for students, more rigor in the classroom, more professional development for teachers and be able to save taxpayers money.

We have to rethink our government structures and we have to be prepared to make difficult choices. Right now Maine has a corrections system and 15 county systems. They’re all trying to do the same thing: Keep communities safe and rehabilitate prisoners.

The current arrangement is too expensive - the results are inconsistent. We have extra bed capacity at the same time that we have prison overcrowding. And we face enormous construction borrowing that’s completely unnecessary.

A unified corrections system and administration solves those problems, gives us better outcomes, gives an opportunity for the inmates to rejoin society successfully, and saves taxpayers money.

But that’s just the beginning. We’re looking throughout all levels of government for ways to reduce costs, reduce administration and operate more efficiently.

We have got to be able to recognize that we are going to promote and be aggressive about promoting economic development, job production and prosperity for individuals.

But that other rail of reducing the cost of administration, the cost of government spending, and the burden on taxpayers at all levels has also got to be as fierce. Because the destination is making Maine a leader at providing opportunities for our citizens so they don’t have to leave our state and find jobs elsewhere.

They can raise their families here and provide bright opportunities in the future based here, as has been proven this week with athenahealthcare; as has been proven with T-Mobile and Cianbro and many other increased developments occurring in our state.

We can, in fact, attract those kinds of jobs, grow those kinds of jobs, even in a difficult economy.

Maine is a great place to live and a great place to do business. athena’s decision to come here is just the latest example of that.

We’re glad to have them here, and we look forward to more and more good news.

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