We see news nearly every day about the financial crisis that we face as a nation. We know that times are tough nationally, and even during a terrible national economy, there are companies willing and able to invest under the right conditions. There have been two recent examples of companies who have made such investments here in the state of Maine.
Boston Financial Data Services is operating out of the former MBNA facility in Rockland. They are planning to create at least 200 new jobs in Maine and have already hired 84 people. This company has 35 years of transfer agency experience under its belt and has nearly 3,000 employees in four locations — Quincy, Mass.; Kansas City, Mo.; Lawrence, Kan.; and now, Rockland.
Boston Financial looked at 200 different communities in about a dozen states before deciding to expand to Rockland. And this company did not expand to Maine by chance; they expanded here by choice. Boston Financial chose to bring more than 200 good-paying jobs to this state, jobs which depend on a highly trained, professional workforce. They made that decision for two basic reasons: Maine’s business climate and the reputation of Maine workers.
Maine’s workforce is known worldwide. The name “Maine” has become a branding tool. People know that something produced in Maine is made with quality and pride. We have an attitude instilled in us from an early age that requires us to work hard with integrity and respect. These are qualities that businesses take into consideration when looking for a place to expand or relocate.
Maine’s business climate — another major factor in Boston Financial’s decision to expand here — has strengthened and is getting stronger. The Pine Tree Economic Development Zone program, developed by Gov. John Baldacci, is one of the most aggressive economic development tools in the country. This program encourages job creation and job growth through tax incentives, which is putting more of your friends, family and neighbors to work during a struggling national economy.
The Pine Tree Zone program began as an attempt to encourage economic development in areas of the state that needed it. Gov. Baldacci worked to expand the program and allow Pine Tree Zone benefits for businesses statewide. There are currently 190 certified Pine Tree Zone companies, responsible for the creation of 5,900 jobs in this state. This program has put Maine on a level playing field with the rest of the country. When given a chance, the Maine workforce will win.
Workers in Old Town received more good news this week when the Red Shield Environmental facility in Old Town was purchased by Patriarch Partners. Patriarch Partners is a company based in New York that specializes in buying companies and turning them around. Red Shield Environmental in Old Town has tremendous potential, both as a pulp mill and as a producer of alternative energy. Patriarch Partners saw the potential in the facility and in the workforce and made the investment.
The new owners said that it is important to put the 160 people who were employed by Red Shield back to work and to keep these jobs intact. Patriarch Partners — a company that knows a thing or two about good investments — has invested $19 million in Maine and Maine workers. This company believes in our people and in our state.
It is impossible to ignore the hardships that are being faced nationally, but it is important to recognize the work that is being done here in Maine. While other states are treading water trying to find a way to pay their bills, Maine is making every attempt to act fiscally responsible while aggressively attracting new business and new jobs for the people of Maine.
On behalf of our business community, I wish to welcome our two newest members, Boston Financial Data Services and Patriarch Partners, to Maine. You will be pleased with your decision to invest in this state and in some of the hardest workers in the country.
Based on developments we have seen in the past few weeks, I am confident that our state will beat this economic storm that is gripping the nation. We can beat it with an indestructible umbrella comprised of our people and our tenacious approach to business development. As long as we continue to keep an eye on the future while remaining responsible in the present, I am sure that Maine will see brighter days ahead.
Dana F. Connors is president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.