Congressman Michaud’s successful initiatives in economic development to grow and keep jobs

Proposes major bill that would help the University of Maine and businesses

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

September 27th, 2013 

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Congressman Mike Michaud has a long list of economic development achievements under his belt from his work in Washington, D.C. for Maine’s Second Congressional District. It’s no surprise that he received a lifetime achievement award for economic development work from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) last spring.

“I was humbled to receive the award,” said Michaud, a longtime member of the Economic Development Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “I’ve been proud to work closely with Maine’s economic development experts over the years and to advocate for the resources and policies so critical to their missions.”

Michaud has fought for years to increase the Economic Development Administration (EDA) budget, which is the only federal agency focused exclusively on economic development. The EDA has a good track record with well over four million private sector jobs created and roughly $150 billion in private sector investment leveraged since its creation.

Congressman Mike Michaud at the New Zealand's Embassy's reception in Washington D.C. photo by Ramona du Houx

“Mike Michaud has led the charge in Congress not only for EDA reauthorization, but also for EDA funding. He has authored and sponsored legislation protecting and increasing EDA funding and worked with the Obama Administration on issues of critical importance to our members,” said NADO President John Leonard.

Michaud’s amendment to restore EDA’s funding in fiscal year 2011 passed by a wide bipartisan vote of 305-127.

When Michaud first got to Congress he began to press for more economic development funding in order to create jobs, spur economic growth, and improve quality of life. In Maine, EDA investments have created 2,539 jobs and helped retain 962 since 2006.

Congressman Mike Michaud at the Great Northern Paper Mill talking with former fellow workers

Congressman Mike Michaud at the Great Northern Paper Mill talking with former fellow workers

“Simply put, the Economic Development Administration and all our regions that use the funds it provides have had no better friend in Congress than Mike Michaud. For ten years he has been an advocate for economic development and the best spokesman in Congress for the benefits of these critical investments,” said Bob Clark, the Executive Director of the Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC).

Michaud’s Northern Border Regional Commission helps rural communities —

Another reason Michaud was so highly praised was because he authored and passed legislation that established the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC), which provides economic development funding focused on distressed communities in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and upstate New York.

“It’s important that we put into place programs that can actually help communities in the region grow economically. Sitting on the Transportation Committee I realized there are regional economic development committees like the Appalachian Regional Commission, which has been around since 1965, but there had never been one for Maine. So, I worked to establish a regional commission bill that would provide Maine with similar benefits that other regional commissions do – like that Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) does,” said the congressman.

According to the NADO, since its creation ARC has reduced the number of distressed counties in its region from 219 to 100, cut the poverty rate from 31 percent to 15 percent.

Congressman Mike Michaud in Washington D.C. at a press conference. courtesy photo.

Congressman Mike Michaud in Washington D.C. at a press conference. courtesy photo.

The NBRC is authorized to invest $30 million per year in federal resources for economic development and job creation in the most economically distressed areas of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. NBRC works through regional planning, helps with technical assistance, and funds projects aimed at encouraging economic prosperity.

“Unfortunately the money has not been appropriated to that level. I’ve been talking with Sen. King so we can push for more funding,” said Michaud.

One of the NBRC’s first investments in Maine was an expansion of the Port of Eastport, which is part of a project that will result in the retention of 18 jobs and the creation of 26 new ones. Michaud also helped assist the port as it sought to export U.S. cattle overseas.

Mack Point, in Searsport Maine. The deepwater port’s facilities have been enhanced with state, local and federal funds for bulk containers, storage, and to accommodate large ships.  Courtesy photo

Mack Point, in Searsport Maine. The deepwater port’s facilities have been enhanced with state, local and federal funds for bulk containers, storage, and to accommodate large ships. Courtesy photo

“The shipments of cattle to Turkey, from Eastport, was very helpful to the port. The federal government is now looking at negotiating trade deals with the European Union. Maine is situated perfectly, especially Eastport, for more trade. Anything we can do to build up our infrastructure in Washington County is great,” said Michaud.

There are important major differences between the NBRC and other federal economic development commissions.

“The NBRC is unique to Maine. First, it helps rural areas with federal matching grants, that’s a huge distinction for economically challenged communities where local matching funds can be hard to find,” said Michaud. “Second it focuses on Maine’s natural resources industries; forestry, fishing, and agriculture. Natural resources based industry is what Maine is all about.”

Rural communities in Maine have been challenged by the lack of Internet connectivity. While the Recovery Act, which Michaud supported, poured funds to expand broadband across Maine the commission is picking up where that program left off.

“The NBRC puts a high priority on broadband infrastructure as well. It mandates that 40 percent of the total dollars that are being dispersed has to go to infrastructure improvements. Weather its broadband, transportation, basic public infrastructure, water and systems upgrades like the port of Eastport received, the NBRC funds are there to help and are flexible,” said Michaud.

The focus on Maine’s natural resources encourages the congressman.

“Maine Huts and Trails has received $75,000 for their hut development program- so it’s helping tourism as well. It focuses on what Maine is all about. That’s why I’d like to see the bill being funded for the full $30 million that it’s authorized at,” he said.

Michaud’s has submitted the Northern Border Regional Commission Reauthorization Act of 2013, which was included in the House-passed Farm Bill.

Congressman Mike Michaud at an event in 2007 to save the Portsmouth Shipyard from a BRAC Commission closure attempt. photo by Ramona du Houx

Congressman Mike Michaud at an event in 2007 to save the Portsmouth Shipyard from a BRAC Commission closure attempt. photo by Ramona du Houx

In addition to the NBRC, Mike secured funding to create the Knowledge Transfer Alliance (KTA), a collaboration between UMaine, community and economic development districts, Maine’s business assistance agencies, municipal and community leaders, and an array of private sector advisory firms and individuals. KTA works to foster connections much like Mobilze Maine, a program started by the Baldacci Administration that empowers local communities with regional economic development. KTA has since worked with hundreds of local businesses.

Michuad’s support of Maine’s innovation economy—

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Sen. Collins, Sen. King and Congressman Michaud spoke about an energy future based on electricity from VolturnUS. Michaud is a longtime supporter of R&D for the University. photo by du Houx

Michaud has helped to position Maine better in the innovation economy, from supporting the Recovery Act – which created thousands of jobs in Maine, and invested in research and development – to securing funds for UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center.

The Advanced Structures and Composites Center has received numerous federal and state grants for their innovations. Between 2001 and 2009, the Center has helped to expand business opportunities and improve competitiveness for nearly 90 companies throughout Maine. It has spun off 13 new Maine companies, expanded product lines for 47 existing companies, and improved products for 31 companies.

For example, UMaine’s research and development for tidal energy development helped Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) launch the first tidal power turbine that is generating energy to the grid from Eastport. So far, ORPC has created eighty jobs in eight Maine counties. Over the next seven to ten years they expect to create an additional 400 to 500 jobs. Michaud supported federal grants for ORPC and has been a strong supporter of advancing tidal energy development in Maine.

“UMaine does a marvelous job. The Center is a great example of private/public partnerships that they foster. They focus on problems that industries need answers to. We all can be very proud of what they’re doing. I’m always a supporter of their work,” said Michaud. “We’ve had several federal officials visit the Center and they all left extremely impressed.”

Those officials whom Michaud encouraged to visit included former Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu, former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and former Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Ken Salazar.

The VolturnUS offshore wind turbine in Castine Bay, Maine, started producing electricity to the grid on May 13, 2013. VolturnUS is the first offshore floating wind turbine in the Americas. It was designed and manufactured at the University of Maine with the help of federal grants.

The VolturnUS offshore wind turbine in Castine Bay, Maine, started producing electricity to the grid on May 13, 2013. VolturnUS is the first offshore floating wind turbine in the Americas. It was designed and manufactured at the University of Maine with the help of federal grants.

“The DOE is extremely interested in the floating offshore windmill technology they have developed,” said Michaud who helped secure major federal funding for the project.

UMaine, working with a consortium, has advanced floating wind turbine technology. The creation of offshore wind farms using UMaine’s patented designs will support up to 15,000 new jobs in Maine when the local supply chain is maximized.

“From the bridge-in-a-backpack to structures they have designed and built to protect our soldiers overseas to offshore windmills and buildings that can withstand Hurricane force winds the center is a great example of how Maine can innovate for the global economy,” said Michaud. “It’s exciting that UMaine is now world renowned for its composite technology.”

With that in mind the congressman submitted legislation that could be beneficial to Maine’s innovation economy.

“I have introduced the Advanced Composites Development Act of 2013 which would establish a composite research center for the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. The bill would help to commercialize composite structures, like the ones developed at UMaine, as well as improve the technology,” said Michaud. “There are cutting edge sectors of the economy where Maine has a great opportunity to grow in and we need to make sure that we continue to fund research and development in these areas.”

Page Case, UMaine student and researcher in the lab. Michaud secured federal funds to help the R&D at the laboratory. courtesy photo

Page Case, UMaine student and researcher in the lab. Michaud secured federal funds to help the R&D at the laboratory. courtesy photo

Michaud also worked to accelerate a federal program designed to aid biomass producers. As a result Maine biomass producers have received about $32 million and created jobs. Biomass is another area of research that is extensively conducted at UMaine, as it aids forest and agricultural industries.

Michaud’s Biomass Thermal Utilization Act of 2013 would provide biomass energy the same tax treatment as other forms of renewable energy.
“While many renewable energy technologies receive tax incentives, this bill puts biomass on equal footing,” said Michaud. “In addition to incentivizing the expansion of biomass energy use in general, the bill is a win-win for our state’s economy and consumers—both residential and commercial.”

Many mills have integrated biomass technology that uses pulp waste to help them cut energy costs. Some are selling excess energy produced to the grid.

Mike Michaud works at requiring the military to buy Made In USA footwear in his office in D.C. The New Balance shoe was manufactured in Maine. New Balance, which can make footwear to comply with federal procurement rules, employs hundreds of Mainers in Norway, Norridgewock and Skowhegan.

Michaud’s stand for American made products and Maine jobs—

Former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk visited the New Balance shoe factory last year. Trade Representative Michael Froman toured the facility this July.

“Mike Michaud has been a tireless leader on behalf of manufacturers in America,” said Matt LeBretton, Director of Public Affairs for New Balance.

New Balance is the only American company still making sneakers stateside. About 25 percent of their total manufacturing is in the USA. Michaud and the congressional delegation have been lobbying the Obama administration to take into account these manufacturing jobs during trade negotiations.

“We have environmental laws and labor laws,” said Michaud. “We need to encourage these kinds of practices in other countries, not penalize American workers and businesses for doing the right thing.”

 “I was proud to stand with New Balance today to urge the U.S. trade representative to stand by Maine’s footwear workers,” said Michuad here with U.S. Senator Angus King. Courtesy photo.


“I was proud to stand with New Balance today to urge the U.S. trade representative to stand by Maine’s footwear workers,” said Michuad here with U.S. Senator Angus King. Courtesy photo.

Last winter the Congressman toured various mills throughout the state to highlight trade practices and the work at these facilities.

“I heard firsthand from mills, forest managers, and suppliers about the challenges they face and the steps they’re taking to stay competitive in the marketplace,” said Michaud.

Congress recently passed Michaud’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, requiring any footwear provided to Armed Forces members upon initial entry to be made in America. New Balance, which can make footwear to comply with federal procurement rules, employs hundreds of Mainers in Norway, Norridgewock and Skowhegan.

“I have been working for years to convince President Obama and the DoD to comply with the law for domestically sourced uniforms,” said Michaud. “This amendment will guarantee that our troops fight and train in American-made uniforms from head to toe—something that most Mainers I talk to are surprised to hear isn’t the case right now. Passage of this amendment is good news and a significant step forward for footwear manufacturing in Maine and throughout the country.”

Under the Berry Amendment, the DoD cannot procure clothing items for service personnel unless they are produced in the United States, which has been the standing policy since 1941. However since 2002, the DoD circumvented the policy by issuing cash allowances to new recruits for their own purchase of athletic training shoes.

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Michaud has also long supported other economic development programs, including those in the Small Business Administration and the USDA.

More about Congressman Mike Michaud:

Michaud has represented Maine’s largest congressional district east of the Mississippi River, for the past ten years. Michaud graduated from high school and followed his father into the Great Northern Paper mill. He spent nearly 30 years in the mill and proudly displays his lunch pale in his Washington D.C. office. Michaud is a member of the democratic conservative group, the Blue Dogs, and remains a card-carrying union member and firm labor supporter. He is currently running for Governor of Maine in 2014.