Question 4 is a $23.75 million investment in jobs and economic growth bond.


By Ramona du Houx

June 2, 2010
d2a1a99448b22a2c-investGov. Baldacci talks about the importance of investing in bonds that will help educate thousands of Mainers in skilled professions. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Critical to economic growth is building infrastructure that will lead to job opportunities. Officials from Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) and the University of Maine, as well as Brunswick-area legislators from the Midcoast celebrated the SMCC Midcoast Campus, which will be housed at the current Brunswick Naval Air Station (BNAS) to highlight the need for voters to approve a bond proposal on the ballot.

While we are emerging from the recession most economists agree, in order to continue on a path that leads to growth we need investments in areas we know will help bolster the economy.

“It’s clear that we are coming out of a recession that was the worst since the Great Depression. Skill sets that we needed to have before are much different from today. We need engineers, we need advanced materials—like composites, and we need renewable energy skill sets. This community college is providing a leading edge for people to be trained in these fields. The mid-coast campus will be a beacon for that kind of work with a land level facility along with the opportunity to work on offshore wind,” said Governor John Baldacci. “It all works as part of a bigger plan for Maine so that we can generate our own energy and become energy independent, and it helps our national security, as well as protecting our environment.”

About half of the $8 million for this project would go to the BNAS redevelopment, to upgrade the buildings, which would be matched by $32.5 million in federal funds. Students at the new BNAS campus would get hands-on training at the centerpiece Maine Advanced Technology and Engineering Center (MATEC).

The other half of Maine’s contribution— $4.75 million— would fund a new campus for SMCC, which said it turned away more than 3,000 students from degree programs last year.

“SMCC is now the fastest growing community college in New England. Many of our programs are at or beyond capacity,” said SMCC President Dr. Jim Ortiz. “SMCC will serve as a cornerstone in the redevelopment strategy for the Base, driving economic development in key clusters like composites, supporting Maine businesses, helping to retrain and reemploy displaced workers and to build a stronger future for Maine.”

11aa7f321195b985-BONDRep. Cornell du Houx examines the plans for new community college buildings with SMCC President Ortiz. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Officials project that 2,000 additional students will be able to enroll at SMCC because of the new buildings and upgrades.
According to University of Maine Dean of Engineering, Dana Humphrey, Maine ranks 49th per capita for engineers. Bath Iron Works has to employ engineers from other states to work on Maine built ships. “This could turn that around, so we can have ships and other products engineered by Maine graduates,” he said.

The plan is to begin an associates degree-engineering program at SMCC, then if students wish they could earn a bachelors degree by transferring to UMO. The need for master’s degrees will also be met with a new program at MATEC for graduate degrees in engineering.

“Over 70 percent of our experts are due to the innovations made by engineers here in the state,” said Humphrey.

altState Senator Stan Gerzofsky (photo) has been advocating for the best possible transition for BNAS so the community will benefit and become a showcase with high tech jobs in engineering that will grow Maine’s green energy economy.

“I’ve always said to redevelop BNAS we have to create as many high paying jobs as possible. This bond issue will lead to future high paying jobs here in the state,” said Gerzofsky.

“The Midcoast Campus will create opportunities for the people of Maine now and into the future, offering students degrees in engineering and focusing on some of the strengths in our area like boatbuilding, composites and engineering,” said Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx. “For the first time students will be able to earn graduate degrees in engineering, in Brunswick.”

Art Mayo, president of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which is in charge of redeveloping the base, has high hopes that the base can be used to repair, maintain, and finish aircraft, as well as grow a green energy economy. “We are being contacted four or five times a month by companies,” he said.

Question 4 is projected to create 1,000 jobs and spur $100 million in new economic activity across the state as it also invests in small business, dairy, fishing agricultural and lumber industries.

“Question 4 also contains support for traditional industries in Maine and for small businesses,” said the Governor. “This is the time to make these investments, building our foundation for economic and job growth.”