DialoguesMaine / Florida › Introduction

Maine / Florida America's Leading Edges Confront the Global Economy

Maine and Florida are leading edges of the American experience.

Both states could not be more different — and yet they are complementary parts of our national psyche. If the best aspects of each region’s characteristics could be grafted to the other, our nation would be the stronger for it.

The global market economy creates winners and losers without remorse. It does not matter in which of the 50 states we reside. As adult citizens, it is our obligation to future generations to understand our region’s strengths and weaknesses and act in their best interests with our tax dollars and public policies.

Maine has a population of about 1.3 million people and 97% of them are white. Ironically, 97% of the state is forest. Maine still embodies many of the traditional virtues and verities of old New England.  This includes independent thinking, respect for workmanship, an ethic of stewardship towards land and sea, and an abiding respect for education.

Unfortunately, Maine’s essential industries have withered under the global economy and changing circumstances. Most of the state’s farms, factories, fisheries, and lumber and paper mills are mere shadows of their former selves. And of course, there are the long winters with their infamous Nor’easter storms.

Conversely, Florida has a population of over 18 million inhabitants. Much of the lowlying land is covered with mega suburban sprawl and maddening traffic jams. But the sunshine state is still a key component of the American Dream.

Florida is seen by many as a place to start over, reinvent oneself, and revive one’s fortunes. It is still a place of fruitful orange trees, shining glass high rise towers, white sand beaches, gently swaying palms, and long warm winters. (Hurricanes and global warming are just not part of this rosy mental picture).

And Florida has enjoyed almost continuous economic growth since World War II — until now.

But it is a hard fact of life that both Maine and Florida primarily live off tourist dollars and retiree pensions, and this state of affairs cannot ultimately be sustained. Most non-professional service jobs do not generate enough tax revenue to pay for first class schools, parks and libraries, hospitals, roads, and other infrastructure that would lure internationally competitive industries and professionals to a particular metro area.

Consequently, many of the brightest and most ambitious young people leave for greener pastures elsewhere — which further diminishes the potential prosperity of each state.

These CreativeShare Digital Dialogues include a few of the most knowledgeable and articulate voices from both Maine and Florida. Hopefully, these presentations will make you think about the prospects of wherever you are currently residing.

I hope that you will stay in touch with these continuing dialogues.

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