- Collectible Ceramics designed and handcrafted in Maine USA since 1952

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A Community Vision

Vintage 1950’s decanters designed in form and glaze by Weston Neil Andersen 

This blog post grew out of a response to having my comment deleted in an economic development discussion in my local news paper. The Boothbay Peninsula is the grayest town in the grayest county in the grayest state in Maine. I believe my vision can have a transformative effect on the problems of my home town, but there has been no forum wherein one can introduce such a vision, and so this blog post expanded beyond merely posting the comment deleted by the Boothbay Register. I replaced the comment in the Boothbay Register, with one promoting my own economic development blog, Preserving the American Political Philosophy, where my deleted comment can be read, Then I decided to repost the blog post here.

The Comment presented further down, has been deleted twice from the Boothbay Register Discussion about the JECD, It is my view of the JECD that it is just an arm of Maine central management of our economy which operates in the “high value industry” paradigm, which Senator Rubio discusses in his report,  American Investment in the 21st Century. I was already aware that some industries are targeted and subsidized by central management and other industries devalued from my research on the Maine economic development statutes, incrementally put into place since the Longley administration

Go to Report

In my opinion it would be good thing for the Boothbay Peninsula if there were a place for the small entrepreneurial community to connect but currently I have not found that to be so. Therefore, I introduced my own economic development vision to the larger community in this post (below), which was deleted twice by the Boothbay Register by being marked as spam in Disqus.

Go to Article

I started this blog around 2007 because I observed an absence in the Maine media of alternative voices to central management.  Central management of Maine’s economy was deemed into existence by Governor Longley’s unelected board, in the 1970’s. Maine’s fastest growing sector was then small businesses employing up to 100 people, and Maine was leading the nation in that sector. The excuse for creating a centrally managed economy was that small business have a much harder time finding capital that larger ones and so the Maine government would come to their aid. Instead the small businesses have been marginalized or used to subsidize “high value industry” in the model of China, which Rubio presents in his report, Made in China 2005 and the Future of American Business.

Go to Report

As Senator Rubio reports, the profit motivation has become so extreme in macro economy economics that American businesses are scaling back investments in growing and building businesses, including investing in research, to pursue wealth as pure wealth in the form of financial assets. This is a problem in contemporary American culture. The designer-craftsmen industry is value centered on the work process, a value which has gone missing in the macro-economy system based on the “low-value-high value industry paradigm, with value treated solely as a monetary measure. The designer-craftsmen industry can play a significant role in bringing back the value of the work process in American and global culture The low-value-high value industry paradigm is a global phenomenon. which marginalizes every value except profit where ever it is prioritized.

Andersen Design is a brand, uniquely situated, because of our history, to represent the intrinsic value of the work process in the same way that the Trump brand represents the wealth culture.

One of a Kind Vintage Pitcher, designed and hand crafted by Weston Neil Andersen in the late forties or early fifties as part of his concept for the original line of functional forms which launched Andersen Design, then known as Ceramics by Andersen. This pitcher and other rare vintage Andersen objects are available for sale HERE

Recognizing that we now live in a wealth redistribution economy, I approached a New York Arts fiscal sponsor for fiscal sponsorship of our production. Fiscal sponsorship allows an organization which does not have non-profit status to apply for grants from foundations and other non-profit funding, but does not make the organization tax exempt. Translating that into the local dialogue, fiscal sponsorship would allow Andersen Design to fund a fiscally sponsored project with grants but it would not be property tax exempt, and so this would be a plus for the local economy in all ways.

It was the word “production, used on our application, which sent the board into a tizzy. The use of the word, “production”, was specifically stated as the reason we were rejected. The board suggested that Andersen Design change its historical mission and apply again as a school or a museum. As a school we would be prohibited from teaching what we know and love or selling any of the student work as other local non-profits are known to do. Since selling the student work would help to support the school, it touches on the real reason our application was rejected. The application asked for figures, which I took from our business plan, based on my Dad’s parameters of operations, a system of ratios. I used an amount that would fund our business at the scale appropriate for a company with over 200 market proven designs in its inventory. The figures projected that if we started with an operating grant scaled to the size of our assets, we would make most of it back in the first year of operations.

When I re-read the application instructions, I realized my mistake. The guidelines instruct that applications showing no profit or a loss are preferred. I reapplied as a Museum showing a significant loss in the figures. At that point the museum was a Museum of Andersen Design, only, a company which grew itself from the roots up in the free enterprise economy, using production as its method of growth. The application as a Museum of Andersen Design was readily accepted. Soon afterwards, I reconfigured the concept as the Andersen Designer Museum of American Designer Craftsmen. When I approached the JECD looking for support, Wendy Wolf told me that the JECD can’t do anything to help individual businesses, which she was actively doing in the form of supporting the Botanical Gardens and the dining and entertainment industries in Boothbay Harbor.

The Museum is still a viable concept but it needs local support, which has not materialized.(inquiries welcome). The Museum combined with the network of small independently owned slip casting studios, would create a viable cultural focus capable of drawing new younger entrepreneurial residents and visitors and shoppers of all ages to the Peninsula. The Andersen Design brand and extensive product line are assets with a potential to bring new creative work opportunities to the area. The vision I have in my mind is a viable business incubator, but not in a sector designated as having the “high value” pursued by central management. However I submit that the “low-value, high value industrial paradigm is seriously flawed.

At first I did not know what to make of it when my blog post “What Difference A Curve Makes” was shared on Facebook by a college professor at an art school in Indonesia. In terms of globalism I might be worried that our designs will be copied and reproduced in low cost labor markets. However my post text is about the humanistic value of the work process as found in the art of making ceramics. This is a value which is important everywhere. The old economic paradigms which locates high value industries in developed nations and low valued industries in emerging nations is rapidly evolving. It would be much better for society if the value of all work, as a process which enriches life, is raised. I have seen some products sold as “authentic’ crafts from emerging nations which are souless commercial products. People making crafts everywhere should be engaged in a highly valued work process. Andersen Design established that this need not be limited solely to the high end of the art market. Andersen Design established production as an artform in 1952, when its purpose was stated to be to “create a hand crafted product affordable to the middle classes”. The collectors of Andersen took to referring to the product produced in our “factory” as “art”.

Andersen Design is a unique American company which took the road less travelled when we did not move our production overseas and yet we were able to compete successfully in a market filled with products produced in low cost global labor markets. Our line is classic, with marketability which has remained consistent through decades and has both national and international appeal.


DELETED COMMENT from Boothbay Register discussion: Towns discuss JEDC, collaboration
 Extension of shoulder season with Boothbay Lights benefited Boothbay Harbor dining, entertainment and bed and breakfast industry. There was no benefit for Boothbay although Boothbay also funded it. Well- not quite none, it also served as an advertising campaign for the super-funded Botanical Gardens.

Broadband has a lot of issues with G5 technology, which I won’t get into here and
say instead that no one has ever said why we need this. I am not saying that we
don’t but the whole idea seems to be resting on an assumption that we do need
it, which has never been articulated, to my knowledge. Since I once was trying
to get some information out of Wendy Wolf and was directed to go look it up myself
on the town website, I discovered that the plans for broadband were in place at
the town office, long before the publicly organized discussions about it ever occurred.
I would like a clear answer on why we need it and if there has been serious
consideration of the environmental issues with G5 technology and assurance the
technology, if installed, will not be made in China.
Housing is being conceived as an upstairs downstairs community with the “workers”
and middle income people living in modular housing, and ordinances in place to
restrict businesses in the home. Home businesses are fundamental to
designer-crafts persons and or artists, be they in maritime industries,
farmers, or other. I was recently told by a former member of the planning board
that “You can have a gallery in your home in Boothbay, but you can’t show anyone
else’s work and you can’t hire anyone to make your work” In other words you can’t
grow. I am not sure that he was up to date on “you can have a gallery in your
home”, pursuant to recent articles in this newspaper. Since we have both a
housing shortage and an age issue, maybe we should be rethinking the
regulations suppressing independent business in the home?
East side zoning changes and expansion of public access, footbridge work are
specific to Boothbay Harbor.
Historic buildings are being bulldozed over to make room for the new developer’s.
The former home of Andersen Design was one of the oldest buildings in East Boothbay,
is an iconic example. Andersen Design was one of the first businesses in the home
on the Boothbay Peninsula, first situated in a wooden barn built with pegs in
the 1800’s which was also bulldozed over after we left. The economic development
leaders of our community need to read some of the history books of this region such
as the Jim Harnedy series which features Andersen Design. The help we have received
from this community is phenomenal, but all has come from outside of our
community leaders.

“Sites inventory” is unexplained. Andersen Design needs a site for a training capacity I have long had a vision of producing our line of over two hundred classic and market proved ceramic slip-cast designs in a network of small independently owned slip-casting studios. I do not know of any other American company which has these kinds of assets to pull off such a vision. Andersen Design is unique in that capacity in America and the world. My father was an economic development thinker before that term was popular, studying industrial design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Industrial Design is economic development. My original vision was to locate studios in low income, high unemployment areas, but I look at my hometown with all its problems and I see another vision for how such a designer craftsmen network could impact every single one of the problems this town faces. But I can’t do it alone. It takes a village. However, in my experience, the JECD is not an economic development resource available equally to all, but run as a top down organization, which has no understanding of growing anything from the roots up.

Can Ceramic Production As An Art Form Have A Second Chapter In America Today?

Rare Standing Robin, circa 1980’s.

PART ONE in a series in which I  place Andersen Design’s vision of economic development in the economic development environment in Maine







Introduction


I was raised in a home business, similar to a farm, but instead of producing crops, we produced ceramics. From the beginning, Andersen Design, was  conceived of as part of an economic development philosophy. My father Weston Neil Andersen, often expressed the value of creating jobs. In this 1964 letter, by my father as he sought capital for the next phase of development, He talks about increasing the number of employees of our small company and about the benefit that the ceramic industry can have for Maine’s feldspar industry. Our company was small but this is the stuff that real economic development is composed of, creating new avenues of wealth and connecting resources, not merely redistributing existing supplies of wealth.


We created a product line of classic ceramic design which has never gone out of style and a brand identity which can be used to market any product consistent with our style and values. These are intellectual property assets, and in my view,  an economic development resource, which can be used to revitalize a ceramics industry in the USA. Since our company has never had shareholders, we were not obligated to maximize our profit by relocating our production to low costs global labor markets, which is where most western ceramics companies produce today. I envision expanding our production through a network of independently owned slip cast productions with whom we would work on an independent contractor basis. My original inspiration was that people in the designer craftsmen community favor small teams and intimate spaces over working in a large corporate environment. When I was recently. briefly, considered the possibilities of a benefit corporation, It occurred to me that it was our absence of shareholders that made it possible to persevere as an American made ceramic product and that the network I had envisioned would enable expansion without changing that advantage.


The problem we have been dealing with for many years is a shortage of capital needed to adapt to the changing marketplace which the entire retail industry is confronting. I have been through many doors and found that we do not fit the current economic development paradigm and vice versa and so I have been telling the story, here in, about how Maine got to where it is today and developing ideas on how that can be reversed to create an economy which includes the greatest number of people and encourages diversity.This blog post is mainly about that, but I begin with my own perspective so it can be incorporated into the larger context. My idea is not a new one. There have always been regions where ceramics were made. The tradition survives in the Umbria region of Italy. England is also reviving its ceramic industry after the exodus of many companies in recent decades. Ceramics is a very engaging profession. I do not understand why the economic development community of Maine is so cold toward it, other than the mentality and culture which has developed in Maine since the government took over managing the economy, the story I have been relating here in.


The founders of Maine’s public-private government understood the wealth creating function of economic development when they declared that it is appropriate to use the profit motive to generate capital in the Maine economy.


A New Form of Entitlements


The Governor’s Task Force report recommended that two complimentary corporations be chartered by the Legislature, The Maine Capital Corporation and the MaineDevelopment Foundation.


The Maine Development Corporation is the Maine board of all boards and still existent today. It is reasonable to argue that The Maine Development Foundation was put into place to facilitate a replacement for that form of decision making that the newly formed public-private government sought to eliminate. In the words of the second objective stated in the  Governor’s Task Force for Economic Redevelopment-1976:

2: eliminate the requirement for a local referendum on municipal bond issues.          

The Maine Capital Corporation has since been repealed except for section §5202-A:

1977 §5202-A. Small business investment companies exempt Corporate small business investment companies, licensed under the United States Small Business Investment Act of 1958, as amended, and commercially domiciled in Maine and doing business primarily in Maine, shall be exempt from taxation under this Part. [1977, c. 640, §2 (NEW).] As currently found in Maine statutes   

For public relations purposes, It makes practical sense to separate the act that makes investment companies exempt from taxation from acts that grant investors refundable tax credits. Refundable tax credits mean that if no taxes are owed, the tax payers owe the holder a cash payment. 


The statute chartering the Maine Capital Corporation  included the following rationalization for the new system of government:

The Legislature finds that one of the limiting factors on the beneficial economic development of the State is the limited availability of capital for the long-term needs of Maine businesses and entrepreneurs. In particular, the lack of equity capital to finance new business ventures and the expansion or recapitalization of existing businesses is critical. This lack of equity capital may prevent worthwhile businesses from being established; it may also force businesses to use debt capital where equity capital would be more appropriate. This creates debt service demands which a new or expanding venture may not be able to meet successfully, causing the venture to fail because of the lack of availability of the appropriate kind of capital.

This impediment to the development and expansion of viable Maine businesses affects all the people of Maine adversely and is one factor resulting in existing conditions of unemployment, underemployment, low per capital income and resource underutilization. By restraining economic development, it sustains burdensome pressures on State Government to provide services to those citizens who are unable to provide for themselvesTo help correct this situation, it is appropriate to use the profit motive of private investors to achieve additional economic development in the State. This can be accomplished by establishing an investment corporation to provide equity capital for Maine businesses and by establishing limited tax credits for investors in the corporation to encourage the formation and use of private capital for the critical public purpose of maintaining and strengthening the state’s economy. (emphasis mine)

A new government function, that of the state centrally managing the economy, was then deemed into existence, justified by this line of reasoning:
  1. Because businesses do not have access to capital, they do not grow, or they grow at a slower rate.
  2. Because businesses growth is slow, there is unemployment, under employment, low incomes and resource underutilization creating pressure on the state to provide for the needy.
  3. Therefore it is appropriate to appropriate money from the taxpayers to refund investors for investing their capital in the state, which is to say, to take capital out of the whole economy to give to investor class.

Under Longley, the government compartmentalized society into two classes. one class which is hampered from growing because of capital shortages, and another class of citizens who are unable to provide for themselves, apparently not due to a lack of  resources but because of something lacking within themselves.


What was the source of public money refunded to private investors? It was taken from the middle because the bottom is “unable to provide for themselves” and the top, only, is hampered by capital shortages. Some of the refund might also be paid by the top income earners, but one has to ask to what advantage that would be to the top, when, by investing in the Maine Capital Corporation, there is guaranteed a “limited tax credit” which was a refund, by Maine taxpayers, of  50% of the investors investment, without the investor having to part with a share of the profits? To be fair, in truth, no class is composed of multiple individuals all sharing one homogeneous identity and so there are probably top earners who also paid the taxes to finance the states new redistribution of wealth system for the top.

The Maine Legislature justified the appropriation of public funds by deeming that it was appropriate to use the “profit motive” to create capital for Maine businesses, and so a new government function was created, that of creating capital for special interests. It was an act prohibited by the Maine Constitution in Article IV Part Third Section 14, which  prohibits the Legislature from chartering corporations by special acts of legislation. No one in the public, private, or media sectors took issue. It was declared, by the Maine Legislature, that “centrally managing the economy is an essential government function” and the Maine Capital Corporation was chartered. Federal law requires a public corporation to prioritize the profits in the shareholder’s interest. In compliance, the Maine Legislature wrote a sweet deal to attract shareholders to the new investment corporation, creating a burden on the middle class to pay for it.



Flash forward to 2018. How has economic development policy evolved?  I have written in this blog much about the economic development policies written to benefit the top of the economy, but what about economic development programs for the bottom half of the economy?


In example, here is the mission statement from Midcoast Maine Community Action, a non-profit organization:

 Midcoast Maine Community Action is a community action organization advocating on behalf of low-income and other at-risk individuals, assisting them to identify and address their needs, enabling them to achieve self sufficiency and independence.  MMCA actively promotes economic and community development of the businesses and communities in the mid-coast area where individuals and families reside. (emphasis mine)

That latter sentence, which I have emphasized, is either an intentionally false statement, or the people who work in such organizations believe economic development is distributing living subsidies to as many people as possible. (see website). If that were the case, why did we ever need the state to take over central management of the economy? There already existed people dependent on the state for subsistence. If economic development were public assistance programs, we were doing great back in the seventies, though not quite as great as today, when an even greater number of Mainers depend on food stamps, heat assistance, section eight housing and so forth, than ever before.



In the rhetoric of the Longley Doctrine, people dependent on the state for subsistence were portrayed as the problem, not the solution. Today we have evolved to the point where  living on government assistance is conflated with economic development- true at both the bottom and top of the economy but in the class structure, the conflation takes on extreme status differentiations. One sector is glorified with such phrases as “the creative class” and “quality jobs” while the other sector, denigrated, led by Governor Lepage, portraying people on public assistance as losers who spend all their time and money in state owned vice industries, though of course LePage does not mention the the profit the state makes in the vice industries.


Since the 1970’s the state has furthered a cultural and economic class society, composed of the “quality” classes , and by default, “the unquality classes”, each having their own state designated sets of rules. Since the state concentrates and redistributes the wealth in Maine, it becomes difficult for any organization or individual not to serve as an extension of the state. The control of the flow of capital in culture is akin to controlling the flow of water in nature.


What is missing from the economic development programs offered by MMCA, are any programs that assist business to develop jobs and opportunities for the middle and bottom sectors of the economy. This is where our business would be a great resource but there is no support offered for businesses that I have found. Being that the mission statement says it exists to help business and for economic development purposes, I called and asked to speak to the head of economic development but the woman answering the phone had never heard of the term. With the institution of the Longley Doctrine, was born the idea that the state should only further those jobs paying higher than average wages, based on a delusion that an upper end of the economy can be created artificially and not damage the whole cultural and economic fabric of society, as if by taking money from the middle and giving to the top, the same money will trickle back down to the middle.


The alleged public benefit that the Maine Capital Corporation delivered were jobs for a relatively small percentage of the Maine people and the supposed  trickle down effect which, in theory, benefits the whole economy. Statistics show that since the mid seventies, when refundable tax credits, aka wealth redistribution, came into use across the USA.  inflation grew like a steep wall dividing the haves from the have nots. The justification for the redistribution of wealth by government is that there exists one class of people who is inherently deserving of the opportunities which access to capital enables and another class of people who cannot provide for themselves, implying an absence of skills and intelligence, and therefore a class to which living rations are distributed, Even within the “quality jobs sector”  the state negotiates rations for the workers, as if social justice is the equivalency of economic development:

Observe in this testimony by Mr Douglas Ray, legislative liaison for the DECD, as a wage increase is negotiated for the quality jobs sector.  Note that the negotiations are not just for a raise but for a raise for a state approved expenditure, premised in the principals of social justice arranged by the state, as a third party, without access to information about the wealth creation exchange existing in the relation between employee and employer.

In this testimony given in the congressional session for  §3304.Industry partnerships,  Mr. Ray describes his vision for the expansion of the role of government in a centrally managed economy, led by the private sector, in other words, led by those who have access to the real exchange between employee and employer, which is where the return on investment is measurable. Qualified employees are ones who have earned a bonus by the measure of the wealth creation exchange existent in the employee-employer relationship to which the state does not have access. In short the real contribution given to the employer results in an increase in funds which affords the employer the means to give the employee a raise or bonus.

DECD also supports the Industry Partnership model and recommends that the partnerships be led by the private sector, the job creators in our economy.             ……… The creation of the Skills Academy could fit very nicely with DECD’s initiative to address the immediate hiring needs of Maine businesses, which Commissioner Gervais touched on when he met with the Committee a while back. We are looking to help match skilled workers with companies seeking similarly skilled employees. These companies, should they decide to participate, would then pay qualified new employees in this program a bonus towards their educational or housing debt. While this document is again a good starting point we must not fall into the trap of re-funding the same programs that cannot demonstrate a measurable return on investment. DECD is a willing partner in your efforts and we look forward to working with you every step of the way. The question we encourage you to ask when considering each policy decision and part of this document is: Are the results measurable, and, will this make Maine a more competitive state? (emphasis addedTestimony by legislative liaison for the DECD, Douglas Ray



A policy which determines the rate at which an employee should be paid in terms of what the employee should be able to afford, as opposed to basing the rate of pay on the value of the service provided to the employer, is consistent with a system of rationing.

Rationing is not economic development. The term economic development implies that something actually develops as in those quaint old times in America when people used to “pull themselves up by their boot straps” or “earn a living”. If you ever watch the Mad Men series,there is one episode when the lead character expresses excitement about building something. That is the essence of economic development.

Sleeping Sandpiper by Elise Isabel Andersen circa 2016

The Early Correspondences of Weston Neil Andersen

  • Thank You for supporting the Andersen Design Museum of American Designer Craftsmen with a donation

    1956 Statement by Weston Neil Andersen

    From the fall of' 1948 to the summer of 1952 I was a member of the staff of the Akron Art Institute as Supervisor of Education of the Art School. This project to be quite an undertaking and exciting too. In the school we had a well-equipped. ceramic laboratory and. I soon found myself fascinated with the material. In several years I decided I preferred" pottery making to teaching.

    1956 Statement explaining why Weston Neil Andersen, left an “exciting” career as Dean of the Akron Art Institute to start a ceramic art and design slip-cast production on the Coast of Maine.

     

    Weston Andersen 1964 letter Seeking Capital to grow business

    First page describes leaving the Akron Art Institute and embarking on a sales trip on the East Coast as the Andersen’s look for a suitable location for their ceramic slip casting endeavor

    The Andersen’s develop their line, expand their facility and deal with that “old bugaboo: insufficient capital” Weston discusses advantage of slip-casting for Maine Feldspar market.

    Page Three tells of the addition of the wild life sculpture line as a commercial success, the reorganizing of the production facility, during which time production was slowed. The subsequent addition of a larger staff

     

    Page four discusses working with an agent, entering the New York and Boston Gift show, and figures on sales .

    The 15000.00 dollars in capital that Weston was targeting in 1964 would be 119,819,05 today: https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm

    1964 Letter Requesting Samples From Industrial Design Magazine

    A 1964 letter from Industrial Design magazine requesting samples of the Andersen’s work

    To date, I do not know if my father ever found the capital he was seeking. Hopefully we will find more records to piece together the story.

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