A report released by the group Maine Rural Partners discusses Maine's urgent need to invest in its communities and stem the flow of wealth leaving the state. Three Maine communities are on board with the plan. Our question is: when will we see Maine universities stepping up to invest in their neighborhoods?
Read Unity College's take on the report:Groups Reveal Plans to Stem Tide of Wealth from Leaving Maine
On Friday, January 8, Maine Rural Partners, an Orono, Maine-based group dedicated to strengthening Maine’s rural communities, 40 supporters including officials from Unity College, unveiled a blueprint to stem the yearly tsunami of dollars that leave Maine’s rural communities each year. Those gathered at the State House press conference in the Governor’s cabinet room offered specifics from a new report that highlights the problem of Maine’s generational drain of wealth from its communities. The report, entitled Realizing Maine’s Worth: Our Community Legacy
, reveals an innovative approach to meeting Maine’s critical economic development investment needs.
In a study commissioned by Maine Rural Partners and vetted by 36 Maine-based experts, the RUPI Center for Rural Entrepreneurship found that over the next 25 years, Mainers will transfer approximately $91 billion to the next generation. This unprecedented intergenerational transfer of wealth presents a meaningful self-investment opportunity, even as organizations and governments in Maine grapple with difficult budgetary decisions.
Executive Director Mary Ann Hayes of Maine Rural Partners, outlined the significance of the opportunity which the new initiative represents. The report offered sobering facts about the amount of wealth that leaves Maine and a blueprint to turn loss into gain.
Hayes explained that if Mainers choose to invest 5% of their estates in community endowment funds, and if those funds’ investments generated 5% returns to benefit the community, then by 2020 these funds would supply an additional $74 million every year to achieve community economic development priorities. “Each year the Maine economy loses millions of dollars as generational wealth moves out of the state or away from local communities,” said Rob Constantine, Vice President of College Advancement at Unity College, Technical Advisory Committee Member and Contributing Editor of the report. “For example, when a person’s estate is settled often those assets go out of state or otherwise leave the local community. The Realizing Maine’s Worth report quantifies the benefits Maine, especially our rural communities, will realize if we are able to keep generational wealth transfer in our communities.”
Constantine noted that the report will be acted upon by three communities, including Unity, home to Unity College.
“These three communities will take the results of the report to pilot community investment projects,” Constantine explained. “The objective of these pilot projects is to create a blueprint for communities across Maine to address, significantly slow or in some cases stop the flood of generational wealth that is lost each year. Our goal is to address this problem, keeping communities vital and prosperous.”
Maine’s Governor John Baldacci praised the plan.
“This is an innovative approach to community investment that builds on Maine’s strong philanthropic spirit,” said Governor Baldacci before the ceremony. “It works to increase investments on the local and regional levels that will help our communities to grow and be more successful.”
The strategy is proven to work in other parts of the country. In Montana, a decade of new incentives and donor outreach efforts generated more than $100 million in permanent endowment gifts by businesses and individuals. Adapting this strategy to Maine’s distinctive culture, Maine Rural Partners is already working with pilot communities in the Unity region, Strong, and Rockport to create local endowment funds inspired by the conclusions of Realizing Maine’s Worth
Later in 2010, Maine Rural Partners will publish a Community Legacy Tool Kit that consolidates the lessons learned by these three pilot communities. This Tool Kit will guide other Maine communities that choose to capitalize on this opportunity.
The lead editor of the tool kit is Tess Woods '95, Executive Director of Unity Barn Raisers.
“The results of this report are very encouraging,” said Woods. “The Unity area will benefit greatly as a pilot project, and I am honored to work with this team to develop a blueprint for successful community investment.”Realizing Maine’s Worth
currently being delivered to all Maine legislators and public libraries. Dozens of public and private sector partners will participate in this distribution effort, including Maine Community Foundation, Maine Philanthropy center, Maine Development Foundation, Maine Center for Economic Policy, and Coastal Enterprises, Inc.
The report is also available online at www.mainerural.org/legacy
, where visitors will be able to track the progress of the three pilot communities and download resources from the Community Legacy Tool Kit as they are developed.