Midcoast state legislative candidates discuss how they would help entrepreneurs succeed if elected

Wed, 10/07/2020 - 7:00pm

    As Maine enters Stage 4 of Governor Janet Mills’ reopening plan this month, a bumpy road ahead remains for entrepreneurs, small business owners, and micro-business owners across the state. 

    Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate running for Maine State Legislature, providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their position on issues important to the state. Candidates responding with their individual written answers will have their responses stored in the Pilot’s 2020 Election Resource Guide.

    Among the 14 questions posed to each candidate was a question asking each candidate to outline how they, if elected by voters during the November elections, help the entrepreneur succeed in this state amid the pandemic. 

    Below are the responses to this question from each candidate that responded to an inquiry from PenBayPilot.com. To read more responses from each candidate about their thoughts on important issues, click on their name. 

    Midcoast legislative districts with races in November include House Districts 91 through 99, as well as District 131, and Senate Districts 11 through 13. The incumbents in House Districts 92 and 94 are not being challenged. 

    The following candidates did not respond to numerous invitations to participate in the Q&A series: Lowell Wallace (House District 91), Ann Matlack (House District 92), William Elliott (House District 97), Scott Cuddy (House District 98), Jessica Connor (House District 98), MaryAnne Kinney (House District 99), April Turner (House District 99), Sherman Hutchins (House District 131), and Dana Dow (Senate District 13). 


    Jeffrey Evangelos 
    Candidate for House District 91

    Maine needs to continue to adopt a favorable business climate, with appropriate incentives, to support our small businesses, who in turn create jobs. In reference to the pandemic, Maine's response has been somewhat destructive to small businesses, many who were forced to close or curtail their activities while Amazon and Walmart were allowed to thrive.

    Not only is this not fair, it has actually destroyed businesses and families. We need to do better. The State of Maine needs to be more empathetic and responsive to our small business owners as they navigate this crisis.


    Valli Geiger
    Candidate for House District 93

    Take a fresh look at the regulatory structure to remove barriers to new and small business. Bring back the Women, Work and Community program for training women to take the entrepreneur leap, bring back New Beginnings, another program focused on training and mentoring those wanting to create new businesses in Maine.

    Enhance and enrich the SCORE program and the small business loan programs to give a hand up. Undercapitalization, is the strongest predictor of failure with new businesses.


    Michael Mullins
    Candidate for House District 93

    I have worked with the startup industry for more than a dozen years. I ran my own startup, I ran a leadership program for startup founders, and I founded a nonprofit business competition called the Lean Startup Challenge that had over 30 teams (startups) per year, and I teach a class on Lean Startup Methods. Here in mid coast, I run a small business incubator in Camden, and I proposed a makerspace at the MET building in 2017 that is now opening in Rockland as an interim use at the former Antiques Marketplace building at 25 Rankin Street called Workspace Rockland.

    On October 16 I submitted a proposal to build a maker park at the Camden Tannery site. My philosophy, based on helping dozens of startups launch and grow, is that Maine needs to develop what I call an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, in which we have purpose-built spaces for companies at every growth stage, and social infrastructure, such as networking and entrepreneur training. I practice what I preach; I am already helping small business to blossom here in Maine. I will work to share my vision with other legislators and make this a priority statewide.


    Victoria Doudera
    Candidate for House District 94

    As someone who has started two Maine businesses, run another, and in my capacity as a realtor helped many others get off the ground, I am familiar with the challenges to entrepreneurs in this state, and I’ll support all possible measures that will help working Mainers and small businesses to recover from this unprecedented year. Continuing to improve the state’s infrastructure is key — not just bridges, roads, and ferries — but our digital infrastructure.

    I worked closely with the Department of Economic and Community Development over the past few months to help businesses get grants and loans, and am looking forward to the efforts of the state’s Economic Recovery Committee, as well as the newly created legislative committee, the IDEA (Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business) Committee, as we move forward to support the plan and strategies outlined in the Department of Economic Development’s roadmap for the state. It will take all of us working together to help our state recover and move forward.


    William Pluecker
    Candidate for House District 95

    As a small business owner, I understand what it takes to be successful in a rural economy. For the most part, the government needs to get out of the small businesses' way. The small business owner understands their market and their product better than anyone in government will.

    There will be a shortage of revenue for these businesses as we get the state back up and running after the pandemic. They will be looking to the state for short term loans to cover cash flow issues as well as larger, long term loans that can allow them to invest in capital to take advantage of long term opportunities.

    It makes sense to use the funds coming from the federal government in the form of CARES act funding in this way. The Finance Authority of Maine runs some great programs that should be supported by the state government with funding.


    Molly Luce
    Candidate for House District 95

    I am a small business owner myself so I know how hard this pandemic has hit us. I would like our state to let us open up. We need to become a more business friendly state. I will work on any legislation that will help our businesses prosper.


    Stanley Paige Zeigler
    Candidate for House District 96

    There are always three ways to help any business. The first is infrastructure, whether it be roads, broadband, energy or medical support. The second is developing a workforce through education. And third would be tax incentives for start ups that use Maine workers. We have used these in the past and we need to look at them and make sure they actually employ local workers and have a viable business plan.


    Katrina Smith
    Candidate for House District 96

    The entrepreneur is what is going to bring our state back from the economic collapse we see before us. Mainers have a spirit of ingenuity, passion and a can do attitude that won't let them be down for long. However, we need to make their path easy.

    I believe we should first look at the businesses that were successful and had to shut down only because of the lockdown and then work with federal resources and with municipalities to give them the opportunity to open a new business up quickly. Cutting red tape and supporting them should be our top priority.


    Janice Dodge
    Candidate for House District 97

    I will support bills that are brought forward by the Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business Committee. This is the focus of Gov. Mills’ newly created legislative committee in the 129th which proved to be a valuable conduit for small business in conjunction with the Department of Labor.

    I’m eagerly awaiting updates on the recent Red Zone improvements in Belfast. The wireless fiber optics should help small businesses with communication, advertising, inventory and marketing. Perhaps a similar initiative will achieve improved connectivity for Northport and Waldo.

    Veronica Garvey Magnan
    Candidate for House District 131

    There are no big businesses and few, by federal definitions, small businesses in District 131. The area is very big and scenic and the population is small. Most of our workers commute to Bangor, Ellsworth, Bar Harbor, Belfast and beyond for jobs. The remainder are farmers, fishermen, trade, craft and service businesses that are often too small to apply for federal and state grants and loans. This became more evident and disturbing during the COVID economic crisis.

    The recent distribution of federal funds to the nation’s biggest and strongest businesses will help them to survive. If we have another round of grants and loans, however, they must be given to micro-business people who are far more reliant on a weekly or monthly schedule and every cent they get will be recirculated through the local economy. The Legislature must set up a bureau for the service of providing low or no-cost loans and grants to those micro-businesses.

    This could come as a grant or loan program using the monies sent to the state by the federal government. There are historical precedents for working for and on behalf of very small entrepreneurs and sustaining them during this present crisis. There is enough money in the “Richest Nation in the World” to support their efforts and continuation.

    A reexamination of the military budget would be a way to “free-up” money for several highly necessary programs and this one should be a priority. Demanding that the states, whose own income has taken a major hit, be totally responsible for the success of the whole state and all its residents, is absurd.

    A repeal of the past two major “tax breaks” for the wealthy would also be a decent start for refunding both the state and national governments. Rolling back tax cuts for those earning over $200,000 would be a start. As the Great Depression came on the back of the early 20th century tax cuts and they had to be repealed to get the economy going again, this is a very real way of stimulating the economy and restoring a sense of economic justice to the country.


    Glenn ‘Chip’ Curry
    Candidate for Senate District 11

    Our first priority for small businesses is to help them survive this pandemic. We need to closely monitor the supports designed to help, determine if they are working, and quickly adjust if not. These assessments and interventions need to be conducted on a week to week basis.

    Beyond the specific challenges of this pandemic, we can also support small businesses and micro-businesses by helping them to connect with peers, advisors, suppliers, investors, and customers. Additionally, for many businesses the lack of reliable broadband access is a significant barrier. Increased access to broadband is an absolute minimum requirement to attract and grow businesses.


    Duncan Milne
    Candidate for Senate District 11

    I’ve enabled entrepreneurs across the country. The key to a successful entrepreneur is access to affordable capital and technical assistance throughout the development and execution of their business plan and model.  Business mentoring is a proven technique for providing the best opportunity for success — even more so in an challenging environment like a pandemic. Business can build businesses if the regulatory and tax structure are friendly.


    David Miramant
    Candidate for Senate District 12

    I have been in business since starting my first snow plowing route in high school, so I support everyone who wants to start a business. The state has numerous resources beginning with the Department of Economic and Community Development, Finance Authority of Maine, and community service groups with members who will mentor anyone who asks. We need to start in the schools and teach every child to be a leader if that is their path; teach them to question everything and not just pass tests and become followers; teach them to be the entrepreneurs and leaders of the future.


    Gordon Page
    Candidate for Senate District 12

    The pandemic changes everything. So many small businesses operate on very thin margins and even without a national health crisis hanging over our heads, a high percentage of small businesses fail within short periods of time. The PPP Flexibility Act is a wonderful program, but there needs to be a solid vetting process to ensure that money isn’t directed to businesses that either don’t truly need it, or to businesses that were destined to fail before the pandemic hit.

    During my time in the media advertising industry, and in my work in community and economic development, I worked with hundreds of small businesses. For many reasons, so many of them were ill-prepared to succeed. The key is to replace the failed businesses through recruitment of those that are better suited and more relevant to the times and the locale.


    Chloe Maxmin
    Candidate for Senate District 13

    One of the big themes of our campaign is resilience. This is because the pandemic has shown that we are not built to sustain the hard times that are here and will continue to be in our lives. From COVID to climate change to rising sea levels — this is our opportunity to build ourselves up in a stronger way. Supporting small businesses is a huge part of this. It is how we keep our economies local, vibrant, and — most importantly — sustainable. We have seen how federal loans have failed to give us the relief that we need. We have seen how state programs have lacked the transparency to deliver relief — to owners and employees. 

    One of the principles of my governance is: listen to those who are impacted. We often listen to those who hold power. But I wanted to listen to those who are in the thick of it. As we rebuild, we need to listen to our small business owners and employees. They need to be in the process as we build our path forward.