It is time for the Maine Legislature to take another look at state laws affecting the mining industry.
Mining is poised again to become an important part of our state’s economy, where the potential development of known mineral deposits could employ hundreds of people.
Let me share with you some of the things I know about Aroostook County. It is where I was born. It is where I spent some of my formative years and learned to appreciate the great outdoors. I visit as often as I can and try to keep up with what is happening in The County.
Aroostook County has been hit hard by the downturn in the economy and is continuing to suffer from economic stagnation. The County’s unemployment rate is higher than the state average. More than 2,500 jobs were lost in the last five years. Sons and daughters are not going home. Talented people are migrating south.
These trends must and can be turned around.
Throughout our history, Maine people have faced economic adversity and challenges. And, we have risen time and again by starting businesses, developing solutions and inventing products recognized the world over. We should be proud of this entrepreneurial history and continue to encourage it, particularly now.
People often ask me: How does Cianbro continue to succeed during these difficult times? The answer is simple — it is all about our people. It is about their willingness to embrace change, take nothing for granted and recognize that our future is what we make it. Our primary focus is to develop sustainable strategies that provide our people and, in turn, our company with growth opportunities.
The same holds true for Maine’s economy. I am certain that the state’s economic success begins with our citizens — families, friends, neighbors and co-workers believing in themselves, their capabilities and their capacities to adapt, compete and win.
People lucky enough to call Aroostook home emulate these qualities. They have been through difficult times and are committed and determined to renew and revitalize their economy. They understand how vital it is to welcome new businesses and create new opportunities.
They also know that economic development opportunities, those that offer significant long-term job growth and revenue, do not come along every day, certainly not in Maine.
That is why several Aroostook County legislators are banding together to support changes to Maine’s mining laws. It is also the reason so many people from Aroostook are supporting legislative action to change the law.
Revising state mining laws could pave the way for an industry that would teach new skills, diversify local economies and add quality jobs.
Now is the time to make these changes so Aroostook County can begin to explore the
possibilities that mining might bring.
These historically difficult times call for bold action on the part of our leaders. They must balance onerous regulations that restrict commerce with the preservation and protection of our natural resources.
I believe our leaders will provide the guidance and direction to find the appropriate balance.
Laws are not pushed through; quite the contrary. Our state mandates a comprehensive process for developing and implementing rules that includes extensive public input. Should legislation pass, it could take up to two years before rules are finalized and mining development begins. That is why our legislators need to act now.
One more thing I know about the people of Aroostook — they care about their land, air and water. They value the natural beauty that surrounds them. It is one of the many reasons so many choose to live in The County.
Those living in Aroostook now, along with those of us who keep a piece of our heart there, will not tolerate destruction of our resources. And, unless things have changed since I was a boy, we will all watch closely to be sure that does not happen.
Peter G. Vigue is chairman and CEO of Cianbro.