Jobs — Continue To Be Governor’s Number One Priority
Governor Baldacci talks with workers at the Lincoln paper mill, which remains open because of the governor's determination.
by Ramona du Houx
Maine’s economy has been in transition. While manufacturing jobs have been lost to overseas competition, new-economy jobs have opened the door for creative entrepreneurs working from home via the internet, or commuting. Jobs created from research and development discoveries in Maine have also added dramatically to the economy. Maine was one of five states that experienced an in-migration last year. Many of these people have discovered Maine’s quality of life, and, aided by new technologies and a surge of creative growth in Maine’s cities, are earning good incomes.
"A 22,000 increase in Maine residents working shows positive growth — and growth in a way that reflects the 21st-century economy. More than before, through technology and the globalization of economies, people can enjoy the benefits of living in Maine while doing work in the next state, across the country, or across the globe," said State Planning Director Martha Freeman. "The governor’s technology initiatives, research and development investments, emphasis on obtaining higher education, and support for Maine’s creative economy all promote these new kinds of work opportunities for Maine residents."
People in Maine are reclaiming their cities. The charm of many of Maine’s downtowns had been lost to the hustle and bustle of malls. Now, citizens across the state are taking back their downtowns, opening up unique shops, cafés, and theaters in this creative economy. New businesses are opening up all across the state, secure that the economy is sound with Governor Baldacci. With no increase in income or sales tax, the elimination of the Business Equipment Tax, and with community and business grants, small businesses are growing. And incomes are on the rise.
The U.S. Census Bureau is the bottom line. Data from the Census Bureau is used to make national policy. Those facts showed that Maine’s median household income grew 5.5 percent from 2003-2004 to 2004-2005, even after adjustment for inflation. Ed Welniak, chief of the income surveys branch of the Census Bureau, said the new report’s findings put Maine among seven states showing an increase.
The governor talks with the owner of a mill he saved from closing
"This is positive news for hardworking Maine people and families," said the governor. "The U.S. Census numbers show that many people in Maine are finding opportunities to work and increase their earnings. We need to extend those opportunities to all Maine residents. Access to stable, well-paying jobs remains my priority for all Maine residents."
It takes a diversity of occupations to fill jobs in Maine. From scientists conducting tests that have made breakthroughs in stem cell research, to service jobs and everything in-between — Maine needs them all. The governor has been working tirelessly to attract jobs to the state, create jobs in the state, and has fought hard to retain Maine jobs.
Over 150,000 workers in Maine still rely on minimum-wage incomes. Investing in people by raising the minimum wage raises their self-esteem. During the last legislative session the governor raised the state’s minimum wage by 50 cents.
Over Labor Day weekend the governor received endorsements from unions across the state. "We support Governor Baldacci because of his strong leadership in support of working people and communities," said Cynthia Phinney of IBEW Local 1837. "From his dedication to providing health care for everyone, to his bold national leadership on trade and protecting Maine jobs, Governor Baldacci is the leader Maine needs."
"The Governor came into office in times that were not at all stellar," said John Hanson of the Building Trades and Laborers. "His leadership took us from those problems to the path of economic growth. And now we have to let him finish the job he started."
Saving Jobs —
"After the Bush administration targeted the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNS) for closure, Governor Baldacci stood in front of us and guaranteed that the shipyard would not close," said Dave Schofield a shipbuilder at the PNS and member of the Metal Trades Council. "Keeping his promise, the governor traveled to D.C. and then to the hearing in Boston to convince the BRAC commission of the importance of the shipyard and the jobs it provides. Governor Baldacci promised he would not let us down, and he didn’t."
On the anniversary marking the day the decision was made to keep PNS open, Governor Baldacci received an award from the Seacoast Shipyard Association at PNS for his efforts. "The workers here set a standard that was seen by the independent commission as the gold standard," said Baldacci.
The governor also visited the Defense Finance and Account Service in Limestone (DFAS) that was slated for closure, but with the governor’s determined commitment and working with the congressional delegation it stayed open and added 200 additional jobs that pay $30,000 to $40,000.
"I’m really proud of what these workers have done," said the governor. "For the DFAS to expand the office in Limestone recognizes that Maine workers are some of the best in the world."
When a base is marked to be closed by BRAC, it usually is. Only 18 percent win their fight to stay open. Maine won two out of three decisions, which was virtually unheard of in BRAC’s history.
Governors Lynch and Baldacci joined forces last year with the congressional delegation to fight for Portsmouth's shipyard. This year they were given an award for their successful efforts saving thousands of jobs.
The one base that will close, Brunswick Naval Air Station (BNAS), has been working with state, federal, and local authorities to make the transition as seamless as possible because of the governor’s efforts. On the day of the closure announcement, the governor set plans in motion that would ensure the community’s needs were acted upon. He set up a special office, and the Brunswick Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA) was established. "The communities’ concerns and plans are being heard," said Rep. Stan Gerzofsky who sits on the committee.
With two 8,000-foot runways, a brand-new control tower, hangars, and housing, the base is attracting interest. At the governor’s request, the area was also designated to be a special Pine Tree Economic Zone (PTZ), giving businesses incentives to expand or locate in the mid-coast vicinity.
Many business owners in Brunswick are not worried about the closure of BNAS, because of the efforts being undertaken. "It’s a strong community with diverse interests. The LRA is doing its job," said the owner of the Big Top Delicatessen that has been in business for ten years. "In fact I’m going to open a branch of the Big Top at Cooks Corner."
Cooks Corner is the mall that many BNAS personnel frequent, and mall owners recently announced that three major chains are opening new outlets.
A major reason that four major mills are operational today is because Governor Baldacci refused to give up on them and their workers, and did everything within his power to find other companies that would take over the mills and put in place either a new business model or more profitable product line, making them competitive again.
At Lincoln Paper he refused to allow receivers into the mill, sending state troopers to protect the mill from the receivers who would have striped away their assets. Shortly after, a deal was brokered, keeping the mill operational. In Penobscot County more than 1,400 Mainers whose jobs were threatened by bankruptcy are still working at paper mills.
Over 7,000 jobs have been saved because of Governor Baldacci’s intervention.
Service Jobs —
Governor Baldacci serves employees of T-Mobile call center during their opening celebrations. The Fortune 500 company will employe 900 workers in Oakland’s FirstPark business and technology center.
In October of 2004 Governor Baldacci suddenly cut short his trade mission to Germany and flew home. He insisted on attending T- Mobile’s announcement that they were opening a call center in central Maine.
Almost two years later T-Mobile held its grand opening celebration at its FirstPark customer-care facility in Oakland, after having hired close to 650 employees over the past year. Eventually, 900 Mainers will be employed at the facility. T-Mobile has invested $17 million in their call center operation in Maine.
"I have to tell you — I’m persistent. It was a national competition and T-Mobile was only going to choose two sites. I had to level the playing field with other states," said the governor to T-Mobile employees gathered at the opening celebration. "I knew if we gave you a chance you would deliver."
Part of leveling the playing field was having PTZ benefits available to companies large and small. With reduced electricity rates and tax incentives offered by becoming a PTZ business, T-Mobile’s decision was made easier. The governor’s ConnectME initiative, making telecommunications connections more accessible, also helped this business in their decision-making process.
The governor worked with the Departments of Human Services and Labor, ensuring that a curriculum was put in place to help train the potential workers. A year later it’s obvious that helping gear Maine workers to handle the call center’s demands has paid off. T-Mobile rates the Oakland center as fourth out of 20 of their call-center sites.
Governor Baldacci talks to employees of T-Mobile call center
"Ultimately, it was on your shoulders," said the governor addressing the employees. "I’m so proud of you. You’re our best natural resource."
"When I came to Maine the first time, I came more as a courtesy. When I arrived I was so impressed by the people; Governor Baldacci even cleared the brush for the site," said John Birrer of T-mobile. "Now I think coming to Maine was a brilliant move. It was a big decision for the company; I did my homework and it was a competitive process. Maine has become a great call center for us, and it’s a great community. The people of Maine have made it obvious that it was the best place to come. It’s a special place, with special people that give our customers great service all the time."
"The governor’s community college system helped tremendously," said State Senator Libby Mitchell, referring to the retraining of workers so they were prepared for T-Mobile. Mitchell was instrumental in creating the legislation that enabled FirstPark business and technology center to become a reality.
R & D Jobs —
Research and Development in ME supports 11,000 jobs. R&D between ’03 & ’05:— Institutional personnel in R&D increased 67 percent. — Faculty involved in R&D grew 66 percent. — Institutional R&D space grew 40 percent.The governor’s goal is to invest $1 billion in R&D by 2010.
According to a national economic study, Maine ranks second in the nation for the number of businesses that grow out of university spending on research and development.
The governor has continually secured R&D funding while establishing coalitions between businesses, educational institutions, and the state, helping R&D economic development.
"As part of my economic plan, last fall I presented the State Science and Technology Plan that calls for Maine’s annual investment in research and development, including both private and public funding, to reach $1 billion by 2010," said the governor.
Recently The Jackson Laboratory opened a new research facility that was partially paid for by bonds passed during the last three years. These funds attract matching federal and private funds. In the past 5 years, Jackson Laboratory has attracted $187 million and created 500 jobs.
"Supporting biomedical research and development encourages breakthrough opportunities in human health, and saving lives," said Governor Baldacci. "My economic development plan builds on the innovation, hard work, and entrepreneurial spirit of Maine people to generate new knowledge, build new companies, transform existing industries, and create jobs."
R&D conducted at the University of Maine has inspired entrepreneurs to create their own businesses. The wood composite industry in Maine is expanding directly because of the research done at UMO. Harbor Technologies of Brunswick build composite docks that were created at UMO.
The boat building school will benefit from the $15million grant the state won to help the wood composite industry grow in Maine's boat building industries
The shipbuilding industry has been strengthened by the composite discoveries, enabling boat builders to win high-end contracts, like Hodgdon Yachts who won a prized navy contract. The state was awarded a $15 million grant that, "will be used to grow 25,000 new jobs in boatbuilding," said the governor.
"Through R&D, Louisiana-Pacific Mill in New Limerick is delving into an entirely new product line, expanding operations and growing in an industry that is important to Maine," said the governor.
The company is planning a major expansion of its facilities to convert the mill into a high-tech manufacturer of Oriented Strand Lumber. The new, high-tech, engineered wood composite product cuts back on old-growth deforestation, as it can utilize warped and smaller second and third growth timber to create a strong, durable product.
The governor’s economic plan promotes such use of technology to transform Maine’s natural resource-based industries. "This new technology implemented by Louisiana-Pacific will advance the wood-products industry in Maine and make these mills stronger and better able to compete in the global economy," said the governor.
"The company’s expansion will allow this industry to grow and prosper, while also helping to preserve Maine’s natural legacy, leading to industrial practices that are better for the environment. Louisiana Pacific could have chosen to expand at any one of their plants, but they chose Maine … and we are proud of that fact."