The wind industry is making a positive difference in my community and is a bright spot in Maine’s economy.
In 1973, my father, Foster Gordon, and two friends started Katahdin Cedar Log Homes in Oakfield. Since then, our company has grown to become one of the largest log home manufacturers in the U.S. and the largest processor of Northern White Cedar in the United States.
It hasn’t always been easy. The global recession hurt our community and our business.
But we’ve stayed strong, expanded into garden accessories, fencing and other products and weathered the storm. Today we employ more than 80 people.
In 2007, First Wind approached our community about the prospects of hosting a wind farm. At first, there was some skepticism and a lot of questions.
Our town settled on a proactive, practical approach to consider the project. We established a wind energy review committee to conduct a thorough review of the project to ensure that it was properly designed and appropriate mitigation measures were addressed.
The committee worked hard in an open process to conduct an independent review. Town leaders worked closely with First Wind to find common ground and made recommendations that were all accepted.
The work was based on science and making sure that the best interests of the community were protected.
The results are impressive.
The project will create nearly 300 full-time jobs during the construction phase, bringing new dollars into every business in the region. From the restaurants to the material suppliers to the gas stations, businesses all over Aroostook County and Northern Maine will benefit.
In addition, the project will mean about $660,000 in new tax revenue for Oakfield every year and an additional $600,000 a year in community benefits.
Those dollars will be put to work in support of our schools, our roads and other important projects.
While the particulars are different with different projects, wind projects are providing tangible benefits to host communities around Maine. In Washington County, in just one year, a wind farm has provided more than $600,000 to support 22 projects, creating 36 full-time jobs. Those investments have helped to leverage an additional $3.2 million in the form of grants and loans that have gone to support tourism, access to broadband internet and organic farming.
Statewide, wind power has attracted more than $1 billion of investment into the state, created thousands of jobs and paid millions of dollars in property taxes.
Right now, in Augusta, this industry is under attack. Legislation has been proposed that would undermine Maine’s thoughtful and carefully considered wind policy.
The industry is being singled out, with high-powered opponents intent on turning back the clock on wind. The goal is clear: Many of these bills want to make it impossible for wind farms to be built in Maine. It’s a terrible mistake.
Wind power is a clean, safe, homegrown source of electricity. It helps to hold down the cost of electricity by replacing higher-priced generation, and it reduces our reliance on natural gas, which accounts for 50 percent of the electricity generated in the state.
The state needs to have a balanced approach to electricity generation to help mitigate changes in prices, supply interruptions and other unforeseen circumstances.
For the past 13 years, I have had a windmill on my property, and it’s generated most of the power for my home. It’s a clean, renewable source of energy, and my personal experience has been very positive
Wind power creates jobs and attracts investment, particularly in our rural communities where both are sorely needed. It helps landowners diversify their revenue stream through leases. And it reduces pollution and helps to conserve water.
The project in Oakfield is right for our town, and during a town meeting the overwhelming majority of voters supported the project by a nine-to-one margin.
Maine’s wind power policies are working and have put our state on a path to capitalize on our valuable wind resource.
That approach is working in Oakfield and in communities around the state.
David Gordon is the president and CEO of Katahdin Forest Products in Oakfield.