Archive for the ‘Economics & Business’ Category

Forestry Researchers Surveying Residents Along Penobscot River for Economic Development Study

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

University of Maine professors and Center for Research on Sustainable Forests leaders Sandra De Urioste-Stone and Robert Lilieholm are conducting a survey under the Bay-to-Baxter initiative. The study seeks to identify sustainable economic development pathways for the Penobscot River corridor that protect and leverage the region’s natural resources and quality of place.

De Urioste-Stone, leader of the CRSF Nature-Based Tourism Program, and Lilieholm, Conservation Lands lead for CRSF, are mailing 3,000 surveys to residents along the Penobscot River to learn their views on recreational use of the river, as well as their thoughts on the community and its ability to adapt to changing social, economic and environmental conditions.

“It is extremely important to understand and incorporate residents’ views and feedback for effective land and sustainable development planning to occur,” De Urioste-Stone says.

The survey is part of the larger project, “Promoting Sustainable Economic Development and Quality-of-Place in Maine: The Penobscot River ‘Bay-to-Baxter Corridor’ Initiative,” which is led by De Urioste-Stone with team members Lilieholm; Claire Sullivan, associate dean for community engagement; Linda Silka, of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center; and John Daigle, associate professor in the School of Forest Resources.

The researchers hope the survey will inform ongoing and future sustainable economic development and environmental efforts in the region that stretches from Penobscot Bay to Baxter State Park.

The area faces sustainability threats, as well as opportunities, and the team will use community feedback to support improved land use and economic development decisions across the region.

Research objectives include determining:

  • Characteristics of residents’ use of the Penobscot River, including activities, predicting future recreation use and perceptions of environmental conditions of the river;
  • Characteristics of residents, including attachment to the Penobscot River, status of employment, education and other socio-demographic descriptions; and
  • Beliefs associated with community resilience to environmental and economic development changes.

The Lower Penobscot River Watershed offers an ideal setting for studying and integrating stakeholder participatory scenario modeling, community resilience and sustainable economic development, De Urioste-Stone says.

The region faces multiple sustainability challenges, including an aging population, poverty, energy and food insecurities, high dependence on resource extraction, heavy reliance on social assistance programs, strong urban-rural gradients, active species and watershed restoration efforts, and public health challenges.

The difficulties, which aren’t unique to Maine, pose risks to social, political and economic systems around the world, according to the researchers. They hope what they learn in Maine will have widespread applicability.

Even with its set of growing challenges, the watershed has several assets that can develop and leverage community health and economic growth. These assets include UMaine, the Greater Bangor area, the I-95 corridor, Bangor International Airport, an international border, an abundant coastline and natural and cultural amenities that attract tourists. Recent development proposals have sought to build upon and leverage those resources, the researchers say.

The project will integrate information generated through the resident and user survey for an alternative futures modeling study led by Harvard Forest and funded by the National Science Foundation that aims to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of decision making.

The study includes service-learning opportunities for several undergraduate and graduate students and is funded by UMaine’s Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the UMaine Rising Tide/NSF ADVANCE Award.

The Conservation Lands and Nature-Based Tourism programs at CRSF conduct applied and collaborative research to better understand, monitor and anticipate important issues regarding Maine’s conservation lands, and to understand the economic impacts of tourism.

UMaine Study: Residents Support Investing in Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Fifty-two percent of surveyed Maine adults supported increasing all Mainers’ monthly electricity bills to invest in renewable energy options and/or energy efficiency programs to reduce carbon emissions.

That’s according to a University of Maine study that also found 37 percent of the nearly 400 respondents viewed energy efficiency and renewable energy investments as complementary. They divided the money evenly — giving half to renewable energy investment and half to energy efficiency programs.

UMaine economist Caroline Noblet and colleagues conducted the study in 2013, the same year fossil fuels (81 percent) and nuclear energy accounted for more than 90 percent of energy use in the United States.

“Energy choice studies generally only gauge support (or not) for a policy, rarely do they take the next step — as we have done here — to look at how people would allocate these investment dollars,” Noblet says.

“Understanding how Maine people evaluate, and make tradeoffs between, energy policy options is important when we consider investments in our energy portfolio.”

The survey included four renewable energy options — hydroelectric energy, land-based wind, deepwater offshore wind and tidal energy; each survey participant evaluated one of these choices against energy efficiency.

The average dollar amount households were willing to pay for these programs was $6.76 a month, or more than $80 per year, per Maine household. When respondents had to choose how much funding to give to each option — renewable energy investments or to an energy efficiency program — participants allocated 56 percent of funds to energy efficiency and 44 percent of funds to renewable energy, on average.

In addition, 76 percent of respondents indicated they would distribute 50 percent or more of funds monthly to energy efficiency; 13 percent said they would allot all of the money to energy efficiency.

The authors said it is important for energy portfolios to include options attractive to multiple audiences.

Noblet conducted the study with Mark Anderson, senior instructor in resource economics and policy and Fellow in the George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions; Mario Teisl, director of the School of Economics; Shannon McCoy, UMaine psychologist; and Ed Cervone, executive director at Educate Maine.

A total of 397 randomly selected Mainers 18 years old and older took part in the survey — 63 percent were male, 57 was the mean age, $71,153 was the median annual household income and $100 was the average monthly electric bill.

The researchers noted the surveyed sample was older, had a higher percentage of males and a higher income than Maine’s 2012 census percentages.

The study was conducted as part of Maine Sustainability Solutions Initiative, a program of the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Some Landowners Embrace Sustainability, Some Don’t — SSI Examines Why

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Why do some landowners embrace sustainability and conservation in their environs while others ignore these concepts altogether? This was one of the main questions Michael Quartuch explored in his doctoral research at UMaine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI).

It’s a complex query. As part of SSI’s People, Landscape and Communities team (PLACE), Quartuch, a recent Ph.D. graduate of SSI and UMaine’s School of Forest Resources, wanted to know what lurked beneath the surface of land use decision-making.

(more…)

Who Attempts to Drive Less?

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Driving Journal

Multiple factors, including structural, social and psychological motivators, contribute to whether a person attempts to drive less, and policy efforts to alter travel choices should address all factors, according to University of Maine researchers.

Caroline Noblet, an assistant professor of economics at UMaine, worked with John Thøgersen, a professor in the Department of Business Administration at Aarhus University in Denmark, and Mario Teisl, director of the UMaine School of Economics and professor of resource economics and policy, to investigate how structural constraints and psychological motivators interact in determining the travel choice of those living in the northeastern United States. The researchers also looked at how the factors can be used to create effective policy interventions that encourage cutting back on personal car use in an attempt to improve environmental, personal and societal conditions.

“Our study indicates that people are moved to different travel behaviors by different factors,” Noblet says. “What makes me drive less doesn’t necessarily make me want to bike more; a one-size-fits-all policy may not be efficient in changing travel behaviors.”

In 2009, the researchers surveyed 1,340 residents from New England states — Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island — as well as New York. Residents were asked about their use of alternative travel modes, attempts to drive less and potential psychological and structural aspects.

The researchers found external infrastructure constraints, including price and availability of local options, as well as household and personal characteristics, combine with an individual’s problem awareness, attitudes and perceived norms, when it comes to deciding whether one should seek carpooling, walking/bicycling or public transportation over driving a personal vehicle.

“An individual’s travel choices have extensive impact on our global environment, personal/societal health, and infrastructure by influencing carbon dioxide emissions and other air pollutants, traffic congestion and the spread of a sedentary lifestyle,” the researchers wrote in an article documenting their findings.

The article, titled “Who attempts to drive less in New England?,” appeared in the March 2014 journal “Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour,” which is supported by the International Association of Applied Psychology and published by Elsevier.

The results showed differences across the states, indicating policy interventions should be tailored for each region.

Finding no difference between Maine and New Hampshire drivers, the researchers used results from those states as a base model, comparing drivers from other states to those in Maine and New Hampshire, Noblet says.

Massachusetts residents were found the least likely to attempt to decrease how much they drive, but use public transportation more than residents of other New England states. New York residents were found to use all three alternative modes of transportation (carpooling, biking/walking and public transportation) more than other residents. Vermont residents were found to walk or bike to work the most, while those in Rhode Island and Connecticut walk or bike the least.

The researchers found the attempt of New Englanders to reduce driving time primarily depends on each individual’s attitude toward driving less. People who think they have limited control over how much they drive are less likely to cut back, and the more a person drives in an average week, the more likely they are to make an attempt to decrease drive time.

Perceptions regarding the behavior of others also appeared to have a positive, but smaller influence, the researchers say.

The results showed specific psychological factors affect one’s decision to use each mode of alternative transportation. Deciding whether to carpool depends on how often someone’s acquaintances do; walking or biking depends on the person’s perceived ease or difficulty; and the use of public transportation depends on the person’s attitude about driving less.

Knowing that the decision to seek out alternative modes of transportation is based on specific contributing components offers additional policy development information.

For example, the researchers say, efforts focused on changing perceived social norms, such as the belief that others drive less, would likely be more effective in decreasing personal car use than campaigns aimed at changing one’s environmental concern.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

Study to Focus on What the Public Wants in Outdoor Recreation

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Sandra De Urioste-Stone, assistant professor of nature-based tourism, and John Daigle, associate professor of forest recreation management, have received a $34,499 grant from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry for the study: “How Well Are We Serving the Outdoor Recreation Public?” The purpose of this study is to investigate perspectives on outdoor recreation preferences and priorities, and perceptions on tourism development to help the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands and other outdoor recreation managers to better understand current demand and improve decision-making. An online survey will be used to test conventional wisdom and open up new thinking regarding what the public wants and how they can best be served. In addition, study participants will be asked questions about their attitudes and beliefs about developing sustainable tourism in their communities. Data collected will be used to develop the 2015–20 Maine State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP). The plan requires that an analysis of outdoor recreation demand, supply, trends, and ultimately priorities be documented.

Research Objectives:

  • Generate new baseline data to inform the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands about what the recreation preferences and needs are for people who live in or visit Maine including basic background demographic data.
  • Identify the factors that influence outdoor recreation participation behavior, including identification of needs, opportunities, and constraints associated with outdoor recreation in Maine.
  • Determine how Maine State Parks are used and what can be done to improve the experiences and services they provide.
  • Determine the differences between perceptions from people who participate in outdoor recreation activities in Maine and a general population of Maine residents.
  • Measure Maine residents’ attitudes toward sustainable tourism and development.

The survey population for this study seeks to entice responses from both the general residents of Maine as well as nonresidents who have recreated in Maine and have paid some type of recreation fee for fishing, hunting, camping reservations, etc.

While the data collected on recreational preferences and behaviors will benefit the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, the questions related to sustainable tourism will have new scientific significance. Questions on sustainable tourism will utilize an attempt to revalidate the Sustainable Tourism Attitude Scale, a published psychometric instrument that has not yet been implemented on a statewide scale.

How Sweet It Is!

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

maple syrup survey

The Maine maple syrup that enhances the flavor of pancakes and ice cream also adds to the statewide economy.

University of Maine economist Todd Gabe says, including multiplier effects, Maine’s maple industry annually contributes about $49 million in revenue, 805 full- and part-time jobs and $25 million in wages to the state’s economy.

Multiplier effects occur when an increase in one economic activity initiates a chain reaction of additional spending. In this case, the additional spending is by maple farms, businesses that are part of the maple industry and their employees.

“The maple producers were really helpful in providing me with information about their operations, which allowed for a really detailed analysis of their economic impact,” says Gabe, whose study was released in February.

Each year, the industry directly contributes about $27.7 million in revenue, 567 full- and part-time jobs, and $17.3 million in wages to Maine’s economy, Gabe says.

Maple producers earn about 75 percent of the revenue through sales of syrup and other maple products, including maple candy, maple taffy, maple whoopie pies and maple-coated nuts, he says.

Retail sales at food stores and the estimated spending of Maine Maple Sunday visitors on items such as gasoline and meals accounts for the remainder of revenue. This year, Maine Maple Sunday will be celebrated Sunday, March 23 at 88 sugar shacks and farms across the Pine Tree state.

Maine has the third-largest maple industry in the United States. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, maple syrup is produced in 10 states — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Wisconsin.

In 2013, Maine accounted for 450,000 gallons, or 14 percent, of the 3,253,000 million gallons produced in the U.S. Vermont (1,320,000 gallons) and New York (574,000) were the top two producers. Among the three top-producing states, Maine had the highest growth rate (25 percent) of production between 2011 and 2013, Gabe reports.

In Maine, the maple production industry appears to be dominated by a few large operations; the 10 percent of maple farms with 10,000 or more taps account for 86 percent of the total number of taps in the state, he says.

While the maple producers that participated in Gabe’s study had an average of 4,109 taps, almost 40 percent of Maine’s maple producers had fewer than 250 taps. The study participants have been tapping trees and boiling sap for an average of 24 years.

Depending on temperature and water availability, the length of the sap flow season varies; in 2013 it ran from March 4 to April 12 in Maine.

Close to 40 percent of the maple producers that are licensed in Maine returned surveys for the study, which received financial support from the Maine Agricultural Development Grant Fund and the Maine Maple Producers Association.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Early Education Funding a Wise Investment

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

early education

A University of Maine economist advises Mainers seeking to make shrewd investments with their tax dollars to put them toward high-quality early childhood education.

In his report “Path to a Better Future: The Fiscal Payoff of Investment in Early Childhood Development in Maine,” UMaine economic professor Philip Trostel says providing a first-rate preschool education for one low-income child saves taxpayers an average of $99,200 during the course of that child’s life in Maine.

“It is ironic that the typical argument against devoting more resources to early childhood development is its costs, since it would actually reduce total government spending,” Trostel says.

Nonprofit and businesses leaders who funded the report, which was delivered last week to the Legislature, will hold a news conference Wednesday, May 29 at 9 a.m. in the Welcome Center of the Statehouse to request financial support for early learning.

Trostel says the report’s findings are bipartisan.

“It is bipartisan because investment in early childhood education makes sense in multiple dimensions,” he says. “If all one cares about is providing the best possible future for our children and grandchildren, investment in early childhood education makes sense. If one is concerned about reducing social injustice and creating greater equality, investment in early care and education makes sense. If one wants a safer world, investment in early childhood education makes sense. If one wishes to promote economic prosperity through greater education attainment and innovation, investment in early childhood development makes sense. Even if one only wants to reduce the size of government and taxes, investment in early childhood education makes sense.”

Considerable research has shown the years before children start kindergarten are the most crucial in terms of brain development and habits. Youth with access to premium early education are more likely to graduate on time, be employed, earn higher wages and avoid criminal behavior, says Trostel.

Thus, he says, providing high-quality developmental experiences for the youngest children in the state is an effective approach for guaranteeing long-term economic success.

Numerous fiscal benefits would result from providing low-income children from birth to age 4 with year-round, full-time high-quality services, Trostel says. More parents would be able to work and pay taxes; fewer interventions would be needed in the K-12 years, thus cutting taxpayer funding by $25,700 per child; and special education and juvenile corrections spending would also drop.

It’s more expensive to continue the current education funding model in Maine. Inadequate early childhood education spending results in costly and often times failed remedial efforts, says Trostel.

“Although some children who start behind catch up, and some who start down a promising path veer off, to a large extent life outcomes are determined by the trajectories created before children start school,” he says.

The report was funded by Eleanor Baker and Thomas Saturley, Bangor Savings Bank, The Betterment Fund, The Bingham Program, Jim and Jennifer Clair, Sam L. Cohen Foundation, Jeffrey and Marjorie Geiger, Gorham Savings Bank, The John T. Gorman Foundation, Hancock Lumber, The Maine Community Foundation, MMG Insurance, Susan and Jackson Parker, John and Sandy Peters, Paul Silsby, Meredith Strang Burgess, University of Maine, Unum, and WBRC Architects/Engineers.

Trostel’s report and a summary are available at melig.org.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Creative Value

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

creative economy

Inventive, imaginative, resourceful and innovative are synonyms for creative.

And in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008, they also were synonymous with better employment prospects, according to a new study by a team of researchers.

The team, including University of Maine economist Todd Gabe, found that from 2006–11, members of the creative class — including those with careers in knowledge-based, creative fields of computers, architecture, arts, business, health care and high-end sales — had a higher probability of being employed than people in the working and service classes.

Having a creative career was even more valuable in the two years after the Great Recession, which may indicate the U.S. economy is undergoing a structural change, say Gabe, Richard Florida of Martin Prosperity Institute in Toronto, Canada, and Charlotta Mellander of Jönköping International Business School in Jönköping, Sweden.

Florida labels the change resulting from the economic crash “The Great Reset.” In his book of the same name, subtitled How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity, Florida says a vibrant future of innovation and dramatic change in lifestyle will result due to the shift in the framework of employment.

Unemployment rates for creative class occupations were lower than unemployment rates in the U.S. economy prior to, during and immediately following the recession, according to the researchers’ analysis of 2006–11 data from Current Population Surveys, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Before the recession (2006–07), the unemployment rate for all occupations was 4.7 percent; for the creative class it was 1.9 percent; for the service class it was 5 percent; and for the working class it was 6.5 percent.

During the recession (2008–09), the unemployment rate for all occupations was 6.9 percent; for the creative class it was 3 percent; for the service class it was 6.9 percent; and for the working class it was 11.1 percent.

In the two years following the recession (2010–11), the unemployment rate for all occupations was 9.4 percent; for the creative class, it was 4.1 percent; for the service class it was 9.3 percent; and for the working class, it was 14.6 percent.”

Working class jobs include those in production, construction, transportation and maintenance. Service class occupations include those in home health care, customer service, food preparation and retail sales.

Researchers say creative class workers may fare better than service and working class members because the work they do is less standardized and thus they are more difficult to replace. They also may be more equipped to reinvent themselves and their jobs are locally driven, rather than export-based, say the three-person team.

The researchers’ article, “The Creative Class and the crisis,” was published in Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

 

Research Explores How to Empower Sustainability Stakeholders Today and in the Future

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

SustainabilityEncouraging people to be engaged in sustainability efforts today that will make a difference tomorrow begins with a look back, says a team of University of Maine resource economists. Reflecting on societal decisions that have come to bear and learning from those aspects that we regret, or for which we are grateful or indifferent could lead to the ultimate motivating question: What actions will the future regret and what will it be thankful for?

Retrospective thinking — learning to evaluate reactions to the legacy we leave — is a means of raising awareness of the potential implications of current actions on the future, according to UMaine School of Economics researchers Mark Anderson, Mario Teisl and Caroline Noblet, writing in the journal Ecological Economics.

It is broadly understood that successful sustainability awareness and action require intergenerational equity and stakeholder engagement. It also is generally argued that we cannot presume to know future preferences — both individual and collective — that change over time.

For a community to engage the future as stakeholders in sustainability, the researchers propose four steps, which will be tested in a survey this spring.

  • A broad cross section of community members think about previous societal decisions they are grateful for, indifferent to or regret.
  • Participants discuss their regrets and gratitude in small group settings to identify common elements of past decisions to help uncover the community values expressed in historical regret or gratitude.
  • Common elements are used in a survey of the whole community to gauge consensus.
  • Community groups consider the survey data and how this information helps people think about future reactions to current decisions.

“Reflecting on what about previous decisions contributed to or detracted from sustainability is a concrete exercise in intergenerational thinking,” according to the economists, whose research is supported by Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative, a program of UMaine’s Senator George J. Mitchell Center.

UMaine Study Assesses Bangor Concerts’ Economic Impact.

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Beat Benefits

Waterfront economic impact

Bangor’s Waterfront Concerts have had an economic impact of more than $30 million over the last three years, according to a new study by a University of Maine economist.

The impact was about $18.6 million in local spending by concertgoers, with an additional $11.8 million in indirect spending since 2010, according to Todd Gabe, UMaine professor of economics. The concerts attracted more than 200,000 people to the Bangor Waterfront Pavilion and supported an average of 160 local jobs per year — with an employment high of 252 jobs in 2012. Gabe’s study shows that the economic impact increased substantially in each of the last three years that Waterfront Concerts has staged outdoor performances.

Gabe estimates the direct economic infusion was almost $3 million in 2010, $5.8 million in 2011 and $9.8 million in 2012. Direct spending and indirect expenditures combined for each of the three years amounted to $4.9 million, $9.6 million and almost $16 million, respectively.

“The number of shows has increased since 2010, and people seem to be coming from greater distances,” Gabe said. “This explains the large increase in economic impact.”

The findings from Gabe’s study were presented to the Bangor City Council on Jan. 14. The analysis is based on taxable lodging and restaurant spending figures from Maine Revenue Services, ticket sales information provided by Waterfront Concerts, and data on overnight visitor spending from the Maine Office of Tourism.

Zip codes associated with ticket sales indicate that a quarter of concertgoers — an estimated 50,000 people — live within 30 minutes of the waterfront pavilion. About 15 percent of them traveled more than three hours to attend a concert, and as many as 27 percent of the longer-distance travelers probably were overnight visitors to the area, according to Gabe.

His analysis also estimates that Bangor-area residents who attended Waterfront Concerts reaped an additional benefit of $16.7 million by not having to pay travel costs.

“Not having to spend the money to attend shows in Boston or Portland is a benefit to locals, which goes beyond the impact to local restaurants and hotels,” Gabe says.

The concert series has featured 41 concerts since 2010 with such international performers as Toby Keith, Journey, Lynard Skynard and Bob Dylan.

Gabe’s research interests include the knowledge and creative economies, local industry clusters, and state and local economic development. Gabe also has conducted numerous economic impact studies.