2f626adca3ea9d5b-shipThe Initiative wins praise of the Obama Administration

October 19, 2009

Article and photo by Ramona du Houx
Maine’s boat industry is showing the way for cluster development in the state.

In 2005 Governor Baldacci became aware of the burgeoning boat building industry in New Zealand. He saw the uniqueness of Maine’s individual boat builders and thought they too could make a huge impact internationally if they worked together as a consortium. The Department of Economic and Community Development went to work and with Baldacci at the helm Maine Boat Builders, (MBB), was created.

With the establishment of MBB, and the help of Maine’s Congressional Delegation, the state won a national grant. This $14.4 million U.S. Department of Labor WIRED grant created Maine’s North Star Alliance Initiative (NSAI).

This private- public partnership has yielded stunning results and is a model for economic development.

“I am proud of the accomplishments of Maine’s North Star Alliance,” said Governor Baldacci at a conference that celebrated NSAI’s work and reviewed the progress of the grant. “We have been laying the foundation for the future, and with the investments being made – as well as working together with our industry partners – we will take advantage of great opportunities to grow this cluster and provide good-paying jobs now and for future generations.”

NSAI was a major workforce and economic development initiative, which directly helped Maine Boat Builders, and the composites and marine trades.

For the first time specific private industry workforce needs were addressed directly with the assistance of state and local government.

Industry leaders stressed the need for a skilled workforce in their industry, as a result training programs and extensions designed for the composite industry at educational institutions were created. Workforce development, research and development, market outreach and infrastructure development were all improved with grant funds.

This cluster area of economic strength has been growing even during the recession, in large part, due to this industry-driven, industry-focused NSAI project.

Additional achievements include:

• Joint partnering led to the funding of the Maine Advanced Technology Center in Brunswick

• 1,500 Maine workers have received training, giving them the expertise needed to succeed

• Enhanced the curriculum and infrastructure with the Landing School and Husson University’s Boat School

• 113 secondary and post-secondary instructors have been certified to teach new manufacturing technologies

• As of June 30 of this year, $50 million of additional investments have been leveraged as a result of the NSAI – these investments are from federal grants; state grants through the Maine Technology Institute; and private industry through training fund matches.

“These are impressive results, but our work doesn’t end here,” said the Governor. “Especially during the challenging economic times we find ourselves in, it’s more important now than ever that we make strategic investments where they will have the greatest impact. And it takes the contributions of all our partners to ensure we are on the path to sustainable job growth and a healthy economy. I hope that all partners here will pledge to maintain this level of cooperation into the future.”

President Obama used the State of Maine’s efforts to revitalize the boat building industry as an example of a successful innovation strategy that could be replicated elsewhere.

In the President’s guide – A Strategy For American Innovation Driving Towards Sustainable Growth and Quality Jobs it said, “The Maine boat building industry is an example where innovation-led transformations occur on a smaller, more local scale. Maine boat builders have a 400-year heritage of skilled craftsmanship, but technological change was threatening to leave them behind. Instead, the boat builders have enthusiastically embraced cutting edge innovation in advanced composite technologies, replacing old jobs with better jobs in the same industry.”

The paper went on to state that Maine’s new boat building industry, ”produces a highly regarded product line that includes racing yachts, pleasure craft, workboats, and military vessels.” And wages in Maine’s boat building industry have risen 19 in percent; employment is up by 12 percent.

For more information on Maine’s North Star Alliance Initiative, please go to