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  • Lawmakers tour five production, education, and shipping facilities during Portland Waterfront jobs tour

    Maine lawmakers Rep. Jorgensen, Rep. Moonen, Rep. Russell, Sen. Alfond, Speaker Eves, Rep. Chipman, Rep. Farnsworth, with Bert Jongerden of the Fish Exchange, Bill Needelman Portland's Waterfront Coordinator and Ray Swenton of Bristol Seafood toured the Portland Fish Exchange with Ray Swenton of Bristol Seafood. Courtesy photo.

    By Ramona du Houx

    Maine State House Speaker Mark Eves joined Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond and Rep. Matthew Moonen and Rep. Diane Russell in their districts with other Portland lawmakers and city officials to tour businesses and facilities along the city waterfront. The visit was a continuation of a statewide jobs tour launched in January by Eves.

    Most of these state Representatives were present during Governor John Baldacci's tenure when voter bonds were used to help build up the waterfront, dredging and establishing a pier. The grants helped the city promote the deep city port, which has attracted Eimskip from Iceland as well as more cruse ships.

    “Maine’s marine economy is vital to the strength of our state,” said Eves. “It was great to witness the deep commitment shared by employees, industry experts and business and community leaders to innovation and the creation of enduring partnerships between public and private sectors that will make Maine second to none."

    Representatives Erik Jorgensen, Ben Chipman and Richard Farnsworth were also present for the tours of Bristol Seafood, Portland Fish Exchange, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, the Ready Seafood Company, and Eimskip’s facility at the International Marine Terminal.

    “Meeting with the people who have helped make Portland the economic and cultural juggernaut it is today was a thrill and a privilege,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland. “We should all look to the experience of entrepreneurs, business owners and workers who have created a thriving economy in Portland, and replicate their success elsewhere in our state.”

    Lawmakers, Maine House Speaker Eves, Sen. Alfond, Rep. Russell and Rep. Moonen, visit Bristol Seafood in Portland, Maine, on a jobs tour. Courtesy photo.

    Legislators began the tour at Bristol Seafood and Portland Fish Exchange. The Portland Fish Exchange, opened in 1986, is America’s first all-display fresh seafood auction. Over 20 million pounds of seafood are bought and sold each year at the Exchange.

    "The Portland waterfront is a critical component of the Maine employment picture. Fisheries, transportation, tourism, and industry supply goods, services, and jobs for the region. These jobs rely on access to the water and investment in aging infrastructure to continue and to grow," said Bill Needelman, Waterfront Coordinator for the city of Portland. "The City is pleased to work with the legislature and all branches of state government to strengthen marine employment on Portland's waterfront."

    Lawmakers also toured the Cohen Center for Interactive Learning at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. GMI recently was awarded it's largest grant of $6.5 million NASA to support climate change education. During the Baldacci administration GMI regularly would receive grants from Maine from bonds, which has helped GMI grow its diverse programs.

    “The Cohen Center for Interactive Learning is a great example of how education can help children and families understand Maine’s marine economy and why it’s so important,” said Representative Moonen. “It was great to see such comprehensive research made accessible and family friendly. Understanding is the first step towards action.”

    Ready Seafood Company, stop four on the tour, is a family owned and Maine grown business that employs over 50 and sources millions of pounds of live lobster ranging from the Gulf of Maine to the Canadian Maritimes.

    "We saw countless examples of ingenuity and dedication to quality that help raise the standards for not only Maine but New England as well," said Rep. Russell. "We remain committed to supporting Portland's thriving waterfront industries and the people and families who rely on them."

    Lawmakers closed out the tour at Eimskip’s facilities at the International Marine Terminal. Eimskip is Iceland’s oldest shipping company, and has offices in 19 countries worldwide.