If there’s one thing people living in eastern Maine know for certain, it’s that sustainable, good-paying jobs are vital to our future well-being. Without them — and without the companies that create them — we will continue to lose population, tax revenue and any hope for economic prosperity.

What a shame that would be, given the great potential for growth that exists in our four eastern Maine counties.

In 2016, Maine was ranked 43rd in the nation in economic growth, and it is currently the slowest growing state in New England.

How can we change this trajectory?

First, we can improve our state’s aging transportation and technology infrastructure. That, quite simply, is a must. Without making necessary updates to these critical networks, it will be harder for Maine to encourage new businesses to set up shop here or convince existing businesses to stay. And second, as a state, we must do a better job in recognizing existing Maine businesses that are doing their part to make Maine thrive.

One of those companies is Poland Spring.

Last year, Poland Spring announced it would be looking for new locations to sustainably expand its operations. Fortunately for our region, Poland Spring took a close look at what Lincoln has to offer. If all the required regulatory approvals are met, Poland Spring will begin sourcing water from the Lincoln Water District this year.

I am confident this partnership will play a critical role in redeveloping this region and demonstrating to other businesses what it means to be a Maine success story.

According to a recent economic analysis by Dr. Chuck Lawton, Poland Spring in 2016 provided 860 good-paying jobs with benefits in 124 Maine cities and towns and provided $136 million in sales for 261 Maine businesses and vendors across the state. The company also contributed $7.7 million in sales, income, property and other taxes.

This is a significant contribution by one company, especially in a state as small as Maine.

[Report: Poland Spring added $200 million to Maine economy]

Poland Spring is also active in the towns where it operates, supporting hundreds of community-based organizations and causes. Since 2000, Poland Spring has invested more than $7 million in charitable giving. It is no wonder that our region has embraced this company as it has looked to expand here.

Poland Spring has long history operating in Maine, and we welcome its operation in eastern Maine. Few companies can say they have been in business for more than 170 years.

Indeed, over the past three decades here in this region, we have seen traditional Maine businesses, including paper mills, shoe factories and other manufacturers, severely cut employment or close altogether. Poland Spring, however, has focused on expanding, spending $70 million in upgrades to its buildings, vehicles and technological capabilities, with more investment to come down the road.

In order to improve the economic future for our children and future generations of Mainers, we need to work with companies like Poland Spring that continue to invest in our state. We need a healthy tax base to ensure our schools, universities, medical facilities, and police and fire departments can continue doing their jobs and that our children, the future of Maine, can get the education they need to ensure Maine remains a great place to live and work.

Eastern Maine is a place that welcomes new economic opportunities.

Michael W. Aube is president and CEO of the Eastern Maine Development Corporation in Bangor.

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