Eastern Maine’s opportunity in global logistics: The Maine Coast Hub

Posted Oct. 20, 2011, at 7:55 p.m.

In the 1970s the state of Maine, after considerable research and study, determined that a “Three-Port Strategy” could advance economic growth and opportunity for exporting Maine’s manufactured products and commodities with an emphasis on natural resource-based businesses and industries.

Today, the Maine Department of Transportation website indicates the state continues to adhere to the “Three-Port Strategy” in order “to preserve the coast of Maine’s resources while at the same time encouraging needed industrial port development.”

Is that enough?

Today’s “just in time” global economy demands more than a port. The current marketplace requires that all systems advance the movement of goods and products in and out of a region via a quick, secure, interconnected, intermodal system — something often referred to as “logistics.”

In 1991, the Council of Logistics Management defined logistics as a “part of the supply chain process that plans, implements and controls the efficient, effective forward and reverse flow and storage of goods, services, and related information between the point of origin and the point of consumption in order to meet customers’ requirements.” Stated more simply, logistics is the “management of the flow of goods between the point of origin and the point of use in order to meet the requirements of customers or corporations.”

Maine’s Three-Port Strategy is a blueprint for meeting this market need. It provides a strong foundation that can support the nation’s goal to double the state’s exports by 2015. Eastern Maine has the rich assets in Searsport’s and Eastport’s deep-water ports, air cargo services through Bangor International Airport and an integrated highway and rail system that easily can move products in and out of the high populations of the Eastern United States and Canada.

Implementing a bold, robust strategy which integrates transportation, distribution, warehousing, materials handling, security and packaging opportunities to Maine’s ports will invite investment in our communities, our region and our state. It will expand and add to our “supply chain” and transform our efforts from simple transport facilities to specialized logistics hubs that provide value-added services. Logically, an investment like this also will create private-sector jobs in the Maine Coast Hub Region.

We must act deliberately, with inspired impatience and focus, now. Other regions of the United States and Canada are acting on their self-interest and are, assuredly, creating their own opportunities for logistics investment. Our current competitive edge only exists if we move forward quickly. As we identify the assets, develop the tactics and advance the concepts, the Maine Coast Logistics Hub will provide opportunity for investment.

The Action Committee of 50, as part of the Mobilize Eastern Maine effort, has recognized the importance of taking action and will host a forum on Nov. 10 aimed at further articulating the vision for a Mid Coast Hub and bringing together stakeholders and economic development leaders.

Among the highlights will be remarks from Michael Gallis, an internationally renowned logistics expert who will discuss the “U.S. Transportation Challenge in the 21st Century Global Network.“ His premise is that the U.S. had the world’s most developed transportation infrastructure, but it was designed to fit the 20th century economy and trade patterns, not what we have today. As globalization continues and new patterns emerge, we’re seeing significant gaps between the system the U.S. has and what it needs.

The Nov. 10 presentation will focus on the changes that have taken place in the world and how they have altered the global patterns of economy and trade and the demands on U.S. infrastructure and how the Maine Coast Hub could fit into this new market.

A united effort will advance this opportunity for Eastern Maine by building upon our high value assets like deep water, air cargo, and rail and highway systems.

The Maine Trade Logistics Forum: Leveraging Eastern Maine’s Transportation Assets for Global Trade and Local Economic Growth will be held Thursday, Nov. 10, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bangor. Information and registration is available online at www.emdc.org/ac50.

Michael W. Aube is president of Eastern Maine Development Corporation in Bangor. He is a past commissioner of Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development and former state director of Maine USDA Rural Development.

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