Project Report

M-RCBG Associate Working Paper No. 50

Growing Maine’s Food Industry, Growing Maine

Betsy Biemann

2015

Abstract

Maine people have a rich tradition of growing, harvesting and manufacturing food and beverages.  To understand the potential of these industries for greater growth, researchers from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and Harvard Business School investigated the industrywide or “cluster” dimensions of Maine’s agriculture, seafood and food and beverage processing sectors.   The research team collected and analyzed data on Maine’s economic performance, the performance of its traded food cluster, perspectives of business leaders, the make-up of Maine’s food cluster support system and cluster growth initiatives from other regions.

The team found that Maine’s traded food cluster is a statewide employer and that its cluster profile shows strengths upon which to grow.  These strengths are complemented by positive industry trends, including growth in niche sectors, increases in land farmed and new farmers, Maine’s growing reputation for authentic, sustainably-produced food, and innovation boosting production and adding value to Maine food.  However, Maine’s food cluster also faces challenges that include a poor foundation of overall economic performance, a cluster comprised mainly of micro and small businesses that collectively exhibit below average productivity, and a large and dynamic cluster support system that lacks a broadly-accepted strategy promoting business growth.  The team drew on its analysis to highlight steps that Maine could take to build on the strengths of these industries as a springboard for greater statewide food and beverage business growth, job creation and prosperity.

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Growing Maine's Food Industry, Growing Maine