Maine is leading in the innovation age

By Ramona du Houx

April 5th, 2009 

Through the deepest, darkest days of the American Revolution, the liberating spirit that led to victory did not falter. But they were trying and uncertain times. An unknown future for a country yet to be established was ahead.
But undeniable values of our worth led to victory. It was all about equality and being able to look forward to living what we now term — the American Dream.

Those born to wealth became equal to farmers and trades people with our Declaration. The mighty English overlords failed to hold back democracy. Now the mighty overlords of finance have tumbled.

Perhaps we didn’t know what was happening without a Common Sense guide to the stock market. Perhaps too many gave the banking world investors too much credit, looking at them as role models and their wealth something to aspire to.

Most people in Maine had no illusions or expectations about some of the one percent of wealthy Americans who were some of the high-stakes investors of Wall Street. Most of the people here still maintain the spirit of America, where everyone is equal and should be treated equally regardless of how much they earn.
Now we are living in uncertain times again, yet it is a time to be optimistic.

Maine has an exciting future as an alternative energy producer and exporter, as well as becoming an innovative state. According to Governor Baldacci, a green energy revolution is happening in Maine.
We also have a president who has been elected to revive the American Dream and American principles around the world. Our votes placed our trust in him. With the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) we can hope again, as the funds are stabilizing states’ economies and investing in future growth.

President Obama signed the Recovery Act into law on Feb. 17, 2009. It is designed to jumpstart the nation’s economy, create or save millions of jobs, and put down a payment on addressing long-neglected challenges, so our country can thrive in the 21st century.

The act includes measures to modernize our nation’s infrastructure, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, preserve and improve affordable health care, provide tax relief, and protect those in greatest need.
ARRA is not the entire story; it is the first chapter to reclaiming America.

In Maine, it will be a catalyst that works in tandem with programs and policies established by Governor John Baldacci, working with the Legislature and the congressional delegation.

Groundwork on projects ranging from weatherization, renewable energy, developing wind turbine components; improving energy transmission, laying broadband, and expanding mass transit have been laid. Gov. Baldacci had begun to accomplish many aspects that are now a part of ARRA but we lacked a federal partner in Washington, DC to help with the funding — until now. Still, one-off stimulus funds won’t be enough to keep the momentum going.

The governor’s bond proposal has identified areas in which the state needs to invest in alongside ARRA funds. They are areas critical for Maine’s growth. The Legislature has also proposed investment bonds and there are a number of energy bills under review.

Since 2002 Gov. Baldacci has been transitioning the state to compete in the global economy.

While the state lost about 15,000 jobs during the beginning of the recession, it also gained 15,000 jobs. The knowledge-based economy has grown because of Pine Tree Zone benefits that have attracted businesses to the state. These jobs are mostly in research and development technologies and specialized services. While we are currently loosing more jobs in manufacturing and retail other job gains are happening, too.

Old Town Fuel & Fiber is restarting its pulp operation and at the same time is working with scientists at the UMaine to create cellulosic ethanol. This former Georgia Pacific Mill is now a biorefinery making renewable energy from wood waste, as well as making pulp. This mill, with a new mission, is moving into the 21st-century green economy. Others may follow this trend.

By making the most of Maine’s sustainable natural resources, the state has the resources needed to be successful in this global economy and become a leader in the technologies that can make America energy independent from oil-rich nations.

Maine’s natural resources make the state rich. Now that we know how to utilize them sustainably, the state has a future as a leader that can capture and export energy, and as a leader that can build high-tech structures with composites.

Over at the advanced composite center at UMaine, researchers and students have created new ways to build structures from wood composites, which have resulted in new bridge designs, ballistic-proof buildings, and potential windmill components.

The economy is in transition. Maine is leading the way in this innovative age by making the most of our natural resources, including our people.