Collins, King, Michaud, Pingree: Protecting existing Maine jobs, creating new ones

By Susan Collins, Angus King, Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree
Posted Aug. 14, 2013, at 12:50 p.m.

The low hanging fruit in economic development is to protect the jobs we already have.

That’s one reason we, as Maine’s congressional delegation, have been intensely interested in retaining the 900 Maine jobs at New Balance facilities in Norridgewock, Norway and Skowhegan. As the Bangor Daily News’ Aug. 8 editorial correctly pointed out, we have been working hard to defend our state’s manufacturing and paper industries against unfair trade policies that threaten thousands of well-paying jobs across Maine.

We believe it’s the right thing to do for the hard-working men and women of New Balance and Maine’s paper manufacturers, and we also believe that manufacturing can and will play a vital role in Maine and America’s future. Despite the loss of manufacturing jobs in Maine and across the country, manufacturing remains a critical part of our economy and the source of thousands of jobs in our state.

It would be a mistake, however, to assume that devoting attention to those sectors means we can’t also work to expand economic opportunities in Maine and better position our state for cutting-edge industries that will undoubtedly represent a significant part of our state’s future as well. A full and fair evaluation of our records would have clearly demonstrated that we devote equal energy and effort to promoting innovative initiatives that will spur job creation in Maine, also knowing full well that the two are not mutually exclusive.

Here are just a few examples:

While fighting on behalf of New Balance this year, we have also witnessed the launch of VolturnUS, the first floating offshore wind turbine in North America, which was made possible by the remarkable ingenuity of researchers at UMaine and supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, which we advocated for tirelessly. We understand that Maine holds enormous potential in renewable energies, and we are proud to hail from a state that is on the cutting edge of those critical developments. That is why we have also introduced in both the House and Senate legislation that would promote home-grown solutions to our state and national energy challenges that would also create good-paying jobs that can’t be exported.

We have also been vocal proponents of improving Maine’s infrastructure network, joining together to invite the Secretary of Transportation to Maine and advocating for critical Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grants that help to fund projects across the state to fix existing deficiencies within that network. Even more recently, through the budget and transportation process, we have pressed our colleagues to join us in addressing America’s crumbling infrastructure because we fully recognize that problems we don’t solve today become tomorrow’s debt for our children. In the wake of the Senate and House’s failure to pass transportation appropriations bills, despite our support, we will continue to work toward finding solutions.

We have also spoken publicly on the need to improve our education system and, after having addressed the student loan interest crisis earlier this year, we look forward to working on a way to make higher education more affordable. This way, we can train our students for the jobs of the future and prepare them to be competitive on a global scale.

Maine’s economy has changed and will continue to change, but one thing that will never change is our shared commitment to protecting existing jobs and fighting to help create new ones.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins, independent Sen. Angus King, and Democratic U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree represent Maine in the U.S. Congress.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/08/14/opinion/contributors/collins-king-michaud-pingree-protecting-existing-maine-jobs-creating-new-ones/ printed on September 22, 2014