USM, UMaine receive $500K for economic development partnership
The Economic Development Administration has awarded the University of Southern Maine and the University of Maine $509,000 over five years to fund the University Center for Economic Development, a collaboration of experts from the University of Maine System that will provide technical assistance and research for the implementation of the state’s 10-year economic development strategy.
The University Center will be led by internationally recognized experts in the Maine Center for Business & Economic Research (CBER), and UMaine’s School of Economics and the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, with specific programs that will focus on bolstering the state’s innovation networks and supporting workforce transitions due to technological changes.
“The center will have the strength and depth to be able to offer critical insights into the Maine labor market and provide a finger on the pulse of the economy,” said Andrew Crawley, UMaine assistant professor of regional economic development, who will serve as co-director of the EDA University Center along with Ryan Wallace at CBER. “The pandemic has changed the economic landscape across the world and Maine is no different. The challenges in recovery will be to understand how different sectors are performing and this will be an activity carried out by the center.”
Guided by an advisory board, the center will work closely with stakeholders statewide to inform research and technical assistance priorities. The initiative will support successful implementation and outcomes from the state strategies, while enhancing the competitiveness of Maine’s innovation economy and talent pool. Projects are expected to align with other focus areas, directly or indirectly, including advancing high-growth entrepreneurship, encouraging business expansion in the state’s innovation clusters, and increasing the resiliency of Maine’s regions, all of which coincide with the state and regional economic development strategies.
“What we’re trying to do is explore how our entrepreneurs, human talent and businesses are networked,” said Deborah Strumsky, senior research associate for the Maine Center for Business & Economic Research at the USM’s Cutler Institute. “Right now, it’s a very disparate entrepreneurial environment, agencies and industries are highly siloed. Economically speaking, we can be so much more than the sum of our parts if we are working together. You need to understand all the parts of the innovation ecosystem, where they are, what they do, and how they interact if we want to build a more equitable and vibrant economy going forward, an economy that is better for everyone.”
The center’s work comes at a unique time in Maine. The pandemic has caused or accelerated economic stressors across the state, and it has exacerbated many of the challenges identified in Maine’s 10-year economic development strategy, including a lack of employees.
The center’s work is primarily within two EDA-defined focus areas — cultivating innovation and developing a high-skilled regional workforce. In addition, projects are expected to align with other focus areas, either directly or indirectly, including advancing high-growth entrepreneurship, encouraging business expansion in the state’s innovation clusters, and increasing the resiliency of Maine’s regions, all of which coincide with the state and regional economic development strategies.
Contact: Lindsay Tice, firstname.lastname@example.org; 207.838.8087