The governor has decreed that Maine should hang its economic fortunes on the Maine Is Open for Business Chevrolet and Austin Theriault’s skill as a driver. This seems to be a foolhardy plan at best, hearkening back to economic development principles known as “smokestack chasing,” which arguably worked in the 1960s and 1970s, but are about 50 years out of date. Here’s what Peter Boothroyd and H. Craig Davis had to say about the practice in their 1993 report titled, “Community Economic Development: Three Approaches,” from the Journal of Planning Education and Research—I have a hunch that the governor doesn’t have a subscription to it.
Traditionally, growth has been espoused and promoted by chambers of commerce, unions, and politicians who have grasped at any opportunity to attract investment in order to increase the size of the local economy. This traditional, often haphazard approach to growth promotion has been labeled “smokestack chasing” by its detractors.
Yet, the governor and I’m guessing his economic development gurus, John Butera and George Gervais, apparently cooked this up and think this is a viable strategy. Butera’s economic development claim to fame is FirstPark in Oakland, another example of “putting all your eggs in one basket,” hoping for a home run by attracting a large employer to ride in on a white horse and bestow hundreds of jobs on a community or region. Continue reading