How does Maine stack up against other states for our economy? There are plenty of factors to look at, and the Maine Development Foundation is measuring all of them!
From wages to entrepreneurship, the cost of doing business to broadband access, the Measures of Growth report considers a wide variety of factors and rates them all. They’ve even included some new measures this year including racial/ethnic income equity and pre-K education.
For a breakdown of the report’s findings, we talk to the MDF’s Executive Director, Yellow Breen.
Rich: Today, we welcome back our guest. Welcome back! This is the first person to appear on the show twice. He also sat on a panel on our Fast Forward Maine conference, which went virtual right at the start of the pandemic back in March. I guess he’s the closest thing we have to regular on this show.
The reason we asked him back so quickly is he is the CEO of the MDF, the Main Development Foundation. And near the end of last year, we received a copy of the report, Measures of Growth 2020 – Performance Measures and Benchmarks to Achieve a Vibrant and Sustainable economy for Maine. It has some eye-popping information and both Yury and I wanted to break it down, so we asked today’s guest back on the show. So let’s talk about Maine’s economic future with Yellow Breen. Yellow, welcome back to the podcast.
Yellow: Hi, Rich. Hi Yury. It’s so great to be back. I didn’t know I was the first returning guest. That’s quite an honor. Thanks.
Yury: Well, you know, thank you for gracing us with your presence. So Yellow, the report is talking about the resilient economy that supports vibrant communities and healthy environment. So is the measure of growth indicator of the goal attainment or the progress on the way there?
Yellow: Yeah. You know, measures of growth has been around since the early nineties. And it really grew out of this desire to have a really objective, nonpartisan take on how the Maine economy was performing. And the current version has 29 metrics. It’s a really broad take on what the economy even means. It covers the basics like growth in gross domestic product growth in per capita income. But it also covers educational performance. It covers how we’re doing in terms of public safety. It covers how the Maine environment is doing.
So unlike a lot of things that come out in the news where it’s like, “Maine got an F on this or a B+ on that”, measures of growth doesn’t lend itself to that kind of crazy over simplification because it really tries to take a broad view of what’s going on and focus on those core issues of, do we have the talent in the workforce? Do we have the commitment to innovation? Do we have a good business climate and do we have quality of life? So in there, if people take a look at it at mdf.org, they’ll see all of those metrics.
And as importantly behind it, there’s this representative non-partisan body, we like to say it’s the hardest group in Maine to get on, the Economic Growth Council. Because the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House all have to jointly appoint these people. So it’s a diverse group. It’s an interesting group and it’s a really broad take on how the economy is doing.
Yury: Fantastic. Well you mentioned that the report is broken down in the specific indicators. So there is fundamental performance indicators, economy, community, and the environment. Has it always been this structure or has it evolved over time? And why these four categories?
Yellow: It has evolved. We’re always tweaking. In fact this year, we obviously tweaked it quite a bit over the last few months to try to be more relevant to people trying to get their hands around what’s going on with COVID and with this deep, deep recession that COVID caused. Even though most of our indicators are long-term, and it actually takes us off in a year or two to get all the reliable data from all the 50 States, so we might have little snapshots of what happened in 2020. But to get one of the things that sets measures of growth apart is that we try to compare ourselves to how is the country doing. How are the other 50 States doing? How are we doing compared to Maine’s own history? And that data takes some time to get.
But this year we tweaked it, we added actually a whole section that we’re trying to shed insight about how the pandemic and the recession changed the economy. We also, even before the pandemic, were trying to line the report up a little bit better to the ten-year economic strategy that came out a year ago. Which was updated by the economic recovery committee that just put out its product.
And then finally we were trying to challenge ourselves to say, with this reckoning, with racial justice that our country has been going through this spring – which has been there for centuries but obviously really hit us in the face this spring – where does that fit into what you can see in the Maine economy in terms of racial disparity? So we added a metric on racial disparity this year. That’s brand new. Mainers of color earn about 38% less on average than white Mainers. That’s a pretty stark gap. It’s not that different than the country, so we’re in the same boat as a lot of places.
And we added a measure, actually. The other measure we added this year was pre-K education. Because even before the pandemic, which has magnified the fact that you can’t show up for your job if you don’t have childcare. But even before that we increasingly realized that early education and early care was a major economic factor. And we started working on adding that metric this year.
Rich: There’s a lot going on and there’s a lot to unpack in this report. It’s more nuanced than a lot of other snapshots we might get. What was the biggest surprise or takeaway you had when you were reviewing the report for the first time?
Yellow: Oh, that’s interesting. I wouldn’t say it was a surprise, because I’ve been working on this for five years now. I think it’s always the diversity of Maine’s assets and opportunities and Maine’s challenges and gaps. I actually think one of the biggest surprises this year was in that new metric, pre-K education.
We’ve been talking forever as a state that we need to invest more there and that there’s a huge return on investment to investing in that future workforce and the youngest Mainers. And yet when we ran the numbers, we actually did exceptionally well compared to the country and New England, in terms of the percentage of Maine four year olds that were in a good public pre-K program. So in other words, our investments have started to pay off. So that was, we actually gave it a gold star, which is how we kind of shine a spotlight on those sorts of things. Even though we have a long way to go, we just have some great progress to celebrate.
I think last year, similarly, our newest metric last year was crime rates and public safety. We knew Maine was a safe state in that sense, but the way that we were off the charts good was really stunning. I mean just orders of magnitude better than even the average of the best 10 States in the country in terms of public safety. So the last couple of years I would say that the two newest metrics, both of which have been gold stars, were among the surprises in terms of what’s going right for Maine.
Yury: Well congratulations to us all, and to those who work hard to bring it to light and make contributions to the greater good of the entire state. That is fantastic.
Yellow, I wanted to dive a little bit deeper into a discussion around wages. Although improving Maine’s average annual wage is just around $47k, compared to the U.S and other union States at around $59k. If our wages are so much lower than other States, why can’t we attract larger employers to the state? And isn’t this an opportunity, or should we be working harder, on raising the wages for the Mainers?
Yellow: Yeah, I think there’s a lot feeding into it, but I think ultimately the factors that were identified by the Economic Recovery Committee; talent, innovation and infrastructure. And in that infrastructure piece, you could include maybe the broader sense of Maine’s business climate. So if you have some areas where Maine is cost competitive, but you do not have the educational skill and education levels compared to Southern New England or the North Atlantic States. So we’re still in a relatively high cost region on the globe, but without maybe the globally competitive workforce we need. That’s a big factor.
And I think increasingly innovation is key. This is my own theory, but I think the long-term data probably backs me up on this, that we’ve always had these waves of things where we thought things are breaking Maine’s way. Because of 9/11, because of the flight to safety during this pandemic, we’re going to see this influx of would be Mainers, and it’s really going to lift the tide of the Maine economy. We see some of that. And we hope it persists this time. Maybe we can come back and talk about that a little bit more. But why doesn’t that happen in a way that is like a fundamental game changer? I think it’s because we don’t have that, um, that epicenter of innovation here that attracts that talent for the long haul that makes it possible for that talent to make a career here.
We trail the country and New England dramatically in terms of R&D spend, which is just one proxy for what’s going on in terms of innovation. We kind of go up and down in terms of some of the entrepreneurship metrics. Some years good, some years bad. But I think even if we do a bunch of other things right in terms of quality of life, without the talent and the investment in innovation, it’s not enough to make people be able to make it here long-term.
Yury: In the report there is also a highlight of the 10 year economic strategy vision, where it says by 2030 Maine will be an international leader with a vibrant, sustainable environmentally responsible economy. All across the state, the people of Maine will have access to an unmatched quality of life and good paying jobs.
From what I’m hearing Yellow, it sounds like it’s going to be a fairly challenging to attain that in next nine years, if the indicators in the way are bleak. And for the guy like me who is naturally optimist and a believer in the greater good and I’m wearing my pink colored glasses. Where are we heading with all of this?
Yellow: Well, I think it’s going to take a while to hit bottom and then recover from the recession. And it’s one of the weirdest recessions we’ve ever experienced. Some sectors are going gangbusters, some have just fallen off a cliff in terms of hospitality and parts of retail. But then you have the things where building materials have gone through the roof, new home sales have gone through the roof. That never happens in a recession.
And bizarrely in terms of what you would expect, high wage jobs and highway journeys are going up at the same time that low wage workers have been displaced and are suffering in dramatic numbers. So that’s what they mean when they call this a “K” shaped recession. They mean that one leg for certain industries or for lower wage workers is going down, while certain other high wage or specific industries are going up at the same time. The pain is not being shared equally. So we’re in a really bizarre situation. We don’t know exactly when we’ll hit bottom, for sure, truly in terms of her recovery. It’s just going to take years to come out of it.
But that said, the Growth Council members were saying this to me as we were getting ready to release the report, they said, “This is more important than ever, Yellow.” I said, ”Why?” They said, “Because whatever we can hold the ground on in terms of doing the right things, and wherever we can make even some modest correct investments over the coming years, is going to shape Maine’s future for decades to come.”
So being guided in where we can hold the line and where to make those select investments, being guided by this insight and data is more important than ever is what the council members were saying to me. So it highlights that the skilled workforce, the talent gap, is still enormous and the pandemic didn’t change it. In fact, it potentially raised its visibility exponentially. That this gap and innovation in terms of R&D, entrepreneurship, and the broadband to support it, that was exponentially highlighted by the pandemic. And then core infrastructure in terms of housing and childcare was magnified by the pandemic, even though we already knew it was there.
So if we can be guided by these insights, which are sharper than ever in terms of how we invest to recover, we’re not going to get there overnight to your point. We’re going to have to continue to slug it out and grind it out towards that vision of what Maine can become.
Rich: So you talked a little bit about this R&D, so I want to follow up on that. The report notes that R&D expenditures are fairly stagnant, and even got a red flag icon next to it, meaning that it needs attention. What do you feel can be done to improve this metric? And do you think that the Roux Institute and in Southern Maine will move the needle on this at all? And do we need more Roux Institute-like events to happen here?
Yellow: Great question. I look at what we saw during the pandemic about what helped Maine respond. And you saw partnerships with companies like Puritan medical Products, who’s the world leader in swabs, headquartered in little, old Guilford, Maine. Nobody even knew it was there.
You have companies like IDEXX, which invest 70% or 80% of all the research and development in their space in the entire world is done by a Maine headquartered company, IDEXX. And then you have companies like Abbott Labs and Jackson Lab who are also part of those critical partnerships. So when I look at who we had to partner with to respond to the crisis, it magnifies that take on why those innovation centric types of companies are crucial. They were crucial in the near term. They’ll be crucial in the long-term.
I think a lot of it is creating an environment where those sorts of companies have access to enough talent and access to enough affordable housing, access to enough good remote worker broadband, in order to continue to expand here and to attract the right companies into those clusters.
And I think the educational partners like UMaine, like UNE, like Roux, and even further down the chain, because you have needs to train the lab techs at all these companies, which is the community college function. So up and down the educational continuum, those partners and players are crucial. I think Roux is trying to, in my sense in talking to them, they’re really trying to be focused and work on things like life sciences and artificial intelligence that aren’t maybe existing natural strengths of, of institutions that are already here. So that it’s not just adding one more redundant player, but really adding maybe a step change in those crucial areas that Dave Roux – who’s a global billionaire in technology and was the board chair of Jackson lab – his vision of Maine has to be able to participate in AI and life sciences. He had a great line by the way that I heard this fall when he was briefing the governor’s economic recovery committee. He said, “The innovation economy can’t be something that happens somewhere else that Mainers just zoom into. It has to be happening on the ground here in Maine as well.”
Yury: Fantastic. Yellow, following our conversation around innovation, Maine’s bar coalition and other partners have committed to the common goal that by 2025, 60% of Mainers will hold education and workforce credentials that position Maine and its families to succeed. And there were incredible efforts by Roux Institute, Alfond scholarship and donation, as well as the local community colleges were offering free classes , free credentials. Is there any information about how many Mainers have actually tapped into that opportunity during the time of COVID?
Yellow: I can’t cite you a stat on that off the top of my head, Yury. But we’re seeing a couple of things that are probably not surprising, but notable. One is that national research that focuses on incumbent workers, people who are working and raising a family while also thinking about going back to school, that even though they’re under grave pressure about how to pay their mortgage or their rent and how to put food on the table for their kids, the desire for education to build a better life for themselves long-term is still in their top five immediate goals. Even in the face of all that other stuff, that is just the short term crisis and pain.
That said, a lot of the focus – and we’re seeing this in Maine, too – has shifted towards what are the short-term education and training opportunities I can get that will immediately help me over the next 6 to 12 months, versus going after the degree programs. So I think what you’re seeing is institutions in Maine at all levels trying to adopt to that and say, “Okay. We don’t want to give up on convincing people that they should be a lifelong learner and ultimately turn this into a two year degree. Nut meanwhile, let’s meet them where they’re at with the 10 week program or the 6 month program that can help them get re-employed and find a better job.”
So the focus has shifted a little bit to, you know, how do you get them on the ramp to a credential that helps them now, while keeping them on the pathway to something even more ambitious and longer term. But enrollments and applications are way down. I mean, it’s very difficult when you’re out there trying to find a new job and/or you have no idea what the future’s going to hold. You don’t have access to childcare, your kids are going to school hybrid and or remote. So I would say both young people and working adults are not signing up for education even though they desperately need it, because all those other factors in their life are working against it right now.
Yury: Got it. Well, that’s impressive to know. That’s impressive that hardworking Mainers are out there pursuing the better life.
Rich: Yellow, talking about education, it does seem based on the report it’s all over the map here in Maine. As you mentioned earlier, we’re well above New England and the U.S. for pre-K, but then we’re average for fourth grade reading and heading in the wrong direction for eighth grade math and post-secondary degrees. What’s happening here? Why do we start so strong and finish so poorly?
Yellow: Well make no mistake about it, we’ve made incremental progress. I mean, when I first started working on education policy some 20 years ago or so, we were well less than 30% of Mainers who had something beyond high school. And now we’re creeping up towards 50%. So we’ve made a lot of progress at kind of 1% a year type of progress. And the problem is that the global economy changes even faster than that. So it feels like we’re constantly playing catch up to where other jurisdictions have gotten to and where the global economy is requiring us to get to.
So I just want to make sure that people read this in the right vein, and we’ve set a high bar to try to get to levels that are competitive with Southern New England, which is one of the most well-educated areas in the world. But we think we have to do that. We have to be that ambitious to compete. We’re not going to compete on being the low cost provider here in Maine. We’ve got to be a high quality, high value provider.
So we think the ambitious goal is appropriate, but you’ve got to acknowledge progress has been made. It’s a big step change, and it requires us to reach working adults in unprecedented numbers, not just high school seniors, number one. And number two, within school aged kids requires us to reach that 30% or 40% that have always struggled. Heavily correlated to income poverty levels somewhat correlated to race and ethnicity. How do we crack the code on groups that have been traditionally very hard to support to success? If this was easy work, it would already be done.
Yury: Yellow, there is another red flag in the report, and it talks about the cost of doing business here in this state. Many people have and easy solution that would simply say let’s lower taxes on businesses. But is that the answer in your mind? How would you unpack that?
Yellow: I look at it this way. Like I said, we’re in a high cost region, in a high cost country on the globe. New England, the North Atlantic States, the East coast of North America, is never going to be the low cost place to put a business. We have to moderate those costs, is the way I look at it. Keep them moderate while making sure that we have the educated workforce, the investments in innovation and the broadband infrastructure that would make it worthwhile here that would outweigh some of those other costs. Because one of our big advantages is the proximity to tens of millions of people that live on the East coast of this continent in Eastern Canada and the Eastern U.S. So we have to attract businesses that benefit from the proximity to Boston, New York, Montreal, that are serving those markets that can attract talent from those markets as well as can maybe export stuff to Europe from here, obviously.
So I look at it as we want to keep those costs under control, but we’re not going to win by just cutting taxes. If cutting taxes means that we can’t invest in higher education, R&D, or broadband, we have to figure out a way to moderate the one and make the investments in the other.
Yury: Makes sense. Thank you.
Rich: So I was a little surprised to see that Maine’s broadband connectivity was heading in the right direction. Because this feels like a major problem that’s been underscored by the pandemic, remote learning, work from home orders. And it’s also something the lack of broadband, especially in Northern Maine, that’s been brought up by several guests on this podcast, as the one thing that they would change if they could to improve the business ecosystem here in Maine. So what are your thoughts on this?
Yellow: The problem with broadband has been incredibly how spotty and frustrating the data still is in terms of not having a clear picture. So in order to compare ourselves to other States, we have to use the FCC – the Federal Communications Commission – data. But that data is outdated and it typically is only looking at folks who have 25MB over 3, has been the accepted standard, 10MB over 3 in some cases used to be the accepted standard. It’s really hard to get a handle on who had a hundred and so on, or a gig.
And I think in my own household with two remote workers this spring and a high school and a college student remote learning, 25MB isn’t going to do it. So I think a lot of us have lived through the fact that what we’re measuring isn’t what’s needed. So it’s a little bit frustrating to be able to paint a picture with the data that matches the reality that we all perceive.
That said it’s not always as bad as we perceive. It’s a patchwork quilt. And there are places as I understand, it’s still in downtown Portland and other high density areas, that have far less bandwidth than you would expect. And there are places in rural Maine that due to some committed providers have far more bandwidth than anyone would expect. And so it’s a patchwork quilt, and I think we’ve got to get to the levels that a true home business or a true remote worker would really need to do what we’re doing here on Zoom and to upload the files that make remote work feasible. So what we’re able to track in the report is not that satisfying, to be honest.
Yury: Yellow, it appears that most of the data was collected before COVID. What impact do you think COVID will have on the next report? And are there any opportunities the pandemic may have provided us for improving our measures of growth moving forward?
Yellow: Yeah. We’re going to have to reset a lot of the benchmarks. Again, one of the critical things about measuring the growth is it doesn’t just look backwards. It sets aspirational targets for the future. Most of which are set to try and to make us competitive with the country or the region. And a lot of those benchmarks that we set were for 2020. And as you said, we’re looking at 2019 data currently.
Next year we’ll reset most of those benchmarks and probably look out to 2030, because the whole point is to set a long range vision for the state. So as we look out next year, hopefully we can see where the pandemic actually maybe reset the whole baseline. You know, there might’ve been some things where it just had a one or two quarter huge blip and then it came back and it didn’t really affect the long-term picture. And there may be maybe other areas where it really reset the baseline in a way that’s going to have a lasting effect.
I think it’s going to have a lasting effect on the structure of the Maine economy. People have gotten used to work from anywhere and shop from anywhere, and that is going to affect some of our businesses dramatically. Some for the better and some for ill. The gap between the haves and the haves nots in Maine in terms of, those households that we always talk about the summer learning melt, those households that during the summer the kids just aren’t in a position to keep up and retain the learning because they don’t have access to books or enrichment activities or whatever. We’re seeing that in spades because of the pandemic. So the lasting potential increase in the gaps between the haves and the have-nots and the urgency that puts on this commitment to true equity for every household, regardless of income level, race, or how rural or urban they are, I think that’s going to be a lasting impact of this pandemic, unfortunately.
On the other hand, I think the work from anywhere thing has a chance. If we can make it clear that you can thrive here indefinitely, not just move to Belfast or Rangeley for six months, but move there for the rest of your career. That could have just a huge, huge boon to our company.
Rich: Priorities matter. And today we’ve talked about talent, R&D, broadband, education, childcare, cost of doing business, and more. What one thing would you prioritize to start a virtuous cycle and get the Maine economy to where you’d like to see it? And I know that’s an impossible question, but that’s why I’m asking you, Yellow, and that’s why we asked you back.
Yellow: All right. Well, I’m so glad you asked. If you look at page six and seven of the report, and this was what the 10 year economic strategy groups looked at last year. We tried to look at those promising opportunity areas and we found some where we looked at, where did Maine have a growth rate that was higher than the country, in sectors that had higher value added economic output than the rest of the economy, and higher wages, and a higher concentration in Maine. And those opportunity areas that are listed on page seven, food and marine, forest products, technical services, making and manufacturing. And then we drilled below those opportunity areas, a lot of which you’ll notice quite readily actually play to Maine’s historic strengths and not just to the shiny new stuff. But it’s connecting the global mega trends and the shiny new stuff to our historic strengths in natural resources. And then if you dig below these, each of these opportunity areas has a variety of skill sets and occupational class indications that are associated with them and a variety of research and development needs associated with them.
So what I would say is take a comprehensive, integrated approach. Don’t take an approach that says let’s invest in R&D for everything. Let’s invest in education and training for everything equally. Let’s invest in business climate for everything. No, we have to look with some discipline at these opportunity areas that the ten-year economic strategy highlighted and ask us what kind of business climate, what kind of R&D, and what kind of workforce would enable those areas to really continue to grow and flourish. So I think we can use that as a prism. It doesn’t take away the fact that you have to work simultaneously on talent, innovation and infrastructure, but it says let’s work on talent and innovation infrastructure that is anchored to something that has the greatest opportunity.
Yury: Sounds very optimistic, Yellow. I’m glad that you’re back shedding some light on a little bit of a dark report in a way. But as you know, we ask all of our guests on the show, what one thing would you change if you could to improve the business ecosystem here in Maine? The last time you said, “I’d have one really clear, comprehensive, consistent economic development plan for the state, and I would stick with it for a decade across the oscillations of politics and elections and budgets and recessions”. So, do you still believe this, or is there now anything more pressing that you might change?
Yellow: I think the imperative of racial equity and racial justice becomes a core part of all of our consciousness in a way that it wasn’t as much a year ago, or wasn’t as universally so a year ago. But that said, that maybe is just one more prism in that 10 year vision.
I was really heartened. I have not changed my mind and I was really heartened this spring that Laurie Lachance and Josh Broder, the chairs of the Economic Recovery Committee, said “Our true north and our charge from the Governor is to maintain the 10 year economic strategy as the true north. Figure out how it might have been affected, disrupted, transformed by the crisis, but not to throw it out and start over”. And so I’m heartened that they did that. And I think the core threads that they came out with this November are therefore trying to push forward the same core threads from a year ago. And I think if the Maine legislature does the same thing and constantly pushes itself to ask, “Are we advancing the ball on that focus or not?”, we will be in better shape.
We have to keep an eye. I mean, that strategy has to come constantly. Look at the global environment and ask what has changed. It’s not a stand back, set the autopilot, and let’s go down below and party. Well, the ship is taking its course. We have to constantly be responding to the real world, but we have to have a long range trajectory.
Rich: Yellow, there is a lot of good stuff in here. We only touched on elements of this report. Is this report available to the public? Where can people go if they want to see a copy of this?
Yellow: Yeah. If you go to our website, mdf.org, and you click on the economic research and policy section, there’s both this long form, which is 44 pages long which has a lot of depth about all 29 of these metrics and all this background context that we just talked about. There’s also a handy or executive summary. And by the way, this year we even tried to make it printer friendly so that it wouldn’t wipe out your toner cartridges if you’re tempted to print this thing from home. So it’s all up there.
Yury: Awesome. Well Yellow, for our listeners that may not be familiar with who you are or would like to reach out to you, where can they find you?
Yellow: Sure they can find me I’m email@example.com. I think my cell phone is even up there on the website, as is the bio for my team. So drop me a line, connect with us through the website, and we’d love to engage with business and community leaders across the state on what we can do together to move this forward.
Yury: Awesome. Thank you for the insights. Thank you for the optimism. And thank you for returning back to the show.
Yellow: Thanks for having me on.
Great mind blowing stuff from Yellow and the MDF as always. If you want a full transcript of today’s episode, as well as the links to the report and other things that Yellow shared with us, just head on over to our website. It’s fastforwardmaine.com/71. And this is the time where we give you our “fast takes”, what we took away from today’s interview. So Yury, what was your fast take for today?
Yury: Thank you, Rich, for this question. My “fast take” is that we need to be very mindful of the fact that we live in the global environment. Yes, we like to think that we are remote and in the way we’re secluded. Because that’s how we like it here. But we need to be learning how to respond to the real world and learn how to move at the same speed if we want to remain relevant, competitive, and ultimately improving life of every resident of this great state. So that is my “fast take. Rich, what is your “fast take”?
Rich: Well, Yellow said made sense. My “fast take” is that we do need to really focus on the long-term plans. This isn’t something that’s going to change or turn or pivot overnight. And the way that we get there, once we know what that North Star is, is start by finding those sweet spots. And Yellow mentioned a few of them about the agriculture and the fisheries and using the new technologies and really invest in those. And I believe that when you invest in those areas, when any business really narrows its focus and really niches down, that’s where it finds success.
So I think that obviously running a state is different than running a business, but I think we do need to focus on those places that are really going to have the biggest impact because that’s what’s going to increase R&D, that’s what’s going to bring more money into the state, that’s what’s going to build up our tech spaces and make it easier for us to educate Mainers as they grow up and as they are in the workforce. So that is my “fast take” for today.