Semiconductors, hospitals and the budget: Business Day at the Statehouse

The Maine State Chamber of Commerce holds Maine Business Day each year in the Statehouse’s Hall of Flags. Today was the fifth installment.

The event is part meet-and-greet, part lobbying effort and part trade show. Different businesses show up with their collapsible trade show booths while legislators, chamber executives and administration officials (there were six commissioners who attended the event) get up to speak about the importance of Maine business.

Businesses participating included Bath Iron Works (Team Blue Shirts), Texas Instruments, New Balance, Kaplan University and Ocean Properties.

“It’s a simple concept but it has rewarding results,” Dana Connors, the state’s chamber CEO, told me. “It takes the day in which we concentrate on bringing businesses to Augsuta to talk about the issues that are important to them and to us as a business community.”

Not much news happens at Business Day, but it’s a good chance to catch up with people about the issues they’re following.

Above all things, Connors believes the budget is the single most important issue being debated in Augusta. And within the budget, the issue of revenue sharing with municipalities is the sticking point.

“The question is how do you replace this $200 million element in the budget, what’s the offsetting means to that and when you listen closely — you hear a few talking about more spending cuts, but you also hear a lot talking about revenue increases, and that to me will be the debate that will take us beyond adjournment, and how long it takes to resolve that budget issue is the $64,000 question at the moment.”

Frank McGinty, MaineHealth’s executive vice president and treasurer, told me the issue he’s talking about during his day at the Statehouse is (not surprisingly) the governor’s efforts to reimburse the hospitals the $400 million they’re owed for providing Medicaid services.

McGinty also shared a few interesting thoughts. As Maine hospitals see falling patient volumes and therefore falling revenue (see my article on Maine Medical Center’s $13.4 million shortfall), the goal will be to expand market share.

However, Maine hospitals aren’t the only health care organizations dealing with this issue. He’s confident that in less than five years we’ll see Boston hospitals enter the Maine market with brick-and-mortar physician practices and compete head-to-head with the existing health care organizations. (Tufts Medical Center in Boston has already made inroads in Maine via telemedicine.)

Anne Gauthier is manager of public relations at Texas Instruments, which employs roughly 500 people at its semiconductor manufacturing facility in South Portland.

Interestingly, the facility is the only one the company operates in the county that isn’t in Texas, Gauthier told me.

I also got to see first hand what is actually produced within its walls. I’m not sure what most people think about when they hear the word ‘semiconductor,’ but I picture all those little box-shaped things on the green motherboards. That’s not what gets produced at TI’s South Portland facility. Instead, it manufactures what look like circular mirrors, which if you look closely has a sheet with hundreds of little semiconductors, or thousands depending on the type of chip, which will get shipped to its production facilities in Southeast Asia where they’ll be cut out and included in those box-like things you see on a motherboard.

I’ll add a photo when I can get it off my phone. I’m writing this from the basement of the state office building, where there’s no cell phone service.


Whit Richardson

About Whit Richardson

Whit Richardson is Business Editor at the Bangor Daily News. He blogs about Maine business, entrepreneurs and the economy.