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Sailing on the Maine coast. The future of Maine is stepped in its past. Now we have boat builders using high-tech developed at the University of Maine  composite center that makes hulls more durable. We also have boat builders working in partnership for join promotion around the world. Photo by Ramona du Houx

July 3, 2009

Maine is already on the road that is creating a clean-energy revolution in America.

 

Editorial

By Ramona du Houx

July 3, 2009

The foundation has been laid, which establishes Maine as a welcoming state, embracing innovative entrepreneurs. Pine Tree Zones, that now encompass the state, level the playing field for companies, helping them with tax incentives, while communities assist further with local tax incremental financing. The combination helps businesses and communities grow together. This relationship in turn has seen communities across the state remake their downtowns, investing in their historical value, and establishing vibrant, creative economies. The state helps these towns apply for federal community block grants and revitalization grants.

In Maine people and businesses work together on the local, state, and federal levels to achieve smart growth.

This synergy has helped develop the state’s clean-energy economy. From 1998 to 2007, Maine’s growth in this sector was seven times the national average, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trust.

The Pew analysis found that between 1998 and 2007, jobs in Maine’s clean-energy economy grew at a rate of 22.7 percent, while state jobs overall grew by 3.3 percent. Nationally, jobs in the clean-energy economy grew at a rate of 9.1 percent, while total jobs grew by only 3.7 percent over that same period.

Now the state is ramping up its potential in the green energy revolution further.

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Governor John Baldacci inspecting a wind blade made by a high school students who are working with the UMaine composite labs. Photo by Ramona du Houx

In June, Maine hosted the EnergyOcean Conference. Wind, wave, and tidal power have extraordinary potential for alternative-energy businesses. The conference helped established Maine internationally as a major player in this new industry in America. Maine has the most offshore wind-power and tidal-power potential of all New England states. Governor Baldacci and the congressional delegation briefed Energy Secretary Chu on Maine’s progress, as the state is seeking funds for an offshore wind research facility in the Gulf of Maine. This state-of-the-art center would attract investors and researchers from around the world to Maine.

This spring, important laws were passed that move Maine forward to becoming a green-energy exporter. Plans to create five testing sites in the Gulf of Maine for offshore wind testing got the green light. Bonds directed at funding a research laboratory for offshore wind potential were passed, as well as those for a green-energy hub at the former Brunswick Navel Air Station. An agency that will deal with all questions concerning weatherization will be created.

The Efficiency Maine Trust and Board will bring together Maine’s energy-rebate, efficiency, and conservation programs. The goals of the agency are historic and will help the people of Maine move dramatically towards energy independence. The state’s plan is to weatherize 100 percent of residences and 50 percent of businesses by 2030, while creating thousands of jobs in the alternative-energy sector.

Under normal circumstances a legislative session is challenging. During a recession, the responsibility of each decision by lawmakers is heightened. The 124th legislative session made important strides forward to help Maine recover from the recession: with a budget that was $500 million less than it’s predecessor; a growth investment bond package; stabilization of the state’s health insurance plan, Dirigo Choice; and tax reform.

While many states are increasing taxes to balance budgets, Maine has taken a bold move and decreased the income tax rate. The vast majority of the people in Maine will see their income tax rate decrease by two percentage points. According to the Wall Street Journal Maine’s tax rate now ranks 20th from being 43rd. It’s a huge change.

Maine’s natural resources are its strength— its people, forests, farms, and fishing grounds. Its wind, waves, and tides are resources just beginning to be tapped, which will literally energize Maine’s economy.

Governor Baldacci has ramped up research and development since taking office. This has led to building state-of-the-art facilities at institutions of learning throughout Maine. The state is now attracting researchers from around the world because of discoveries being made here. Recently $25 million in MTAF funds were given out to innovative projects in alternative energy, IT technologies (like enhancing broadband’s range), composite boat building, and other specialized, scientific discoveries. Many new businesses are underway because of these bond-financed awards.

Maine is developing a worldwide reputation for innovation.

That innovation is the key to growing the state and national economy.

While we are still in a recession, the federal government’s stimulus is a needed relief and is providing jobs. Maine is the first state in the nation to commit 100 percent of its Highway and Bridge funds under the Recovery Act. And 50 percent of funds have been allocated for environmental cleanup projects. In addition 750 Mainers will be put to work weatherizing homes with stimulus funds this summer.

All these measures improve the economic climate in the state, moving Maine out of the recession, while putting the state on the map in the 21st-century global economy.