For too long, our country and our state have been dependent on costly foreign oil.
For too long, our country and our state have been dependent on costly foreign oil.Eighty percent of Maine’s homes are reliant on oil for heat.
As prices have risen, we have sent billions of dollars out of state to pay for it. Money that otherwise would have remained with the families and businesses in Maine.
We must move forward aggressively to heat our homes with resources we have or can make right here.
We have made great strides in the development of wind energy. We cannot be shy about new projects. We will rewrite the rulebook to make wind power development easier without compromising our environment.
Maine has tremendous potential for wind power. Already $2 billion worth of investments have been approved or are awaiting consideration. And an equal amount is being explored.
Just last week a new project on Stetson Mountain won approval. We can harness the tremendous power of the wind and tides to power our industries and light our homes.
And we are also working closely with Maine’s Native American Tribes to support and promote alternative energy projects.
The future rests within reach, and we must seize it.
Tonight, I am announcing a “Wood-to-Energy Initiative” to bring Maine-made sources of heat to the homes and businesses of Maine.
This partnership will bring together the public and private sectors to explore what is possible and what is practical.
I have asked Maine entrepreneur Les Otten, who is here tonight, to bring together business leaders and our Department of Conservation to lead my Administration’s efforts on a conversion initiative that will use our forests and natural resources to relieve consumption of nonrenewable oil.
As a first step in this Initiative, my Administration will pursue a transition to biofuels such as wood pellets and wood chips.
We will identify those state buildings where conversion to wood pellets, wind or other renewable sources of energy can reduce costs by 30 to 50 percent.
This not only saves money for Maine taxpayers, it generates the investment and business activity to grow Maine’s economy.
The lessons learned from these demonstration projects will be made available to every home owner and business in Maine. As part of this Initiative, we will identify and promote the financial tools to enable Maine homeowners and small businesses to move away from their reliance on costly foreign oil.
We can encourage the alternative energy industry in way that benefits Maine without disadvantaging existing businesses reliant on wood for other products.
We are already working on a collaborative effort with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that will take stock in our natural resources and develop new technologies and new market opportunities.
We should look to our Canadian neighbors for new partnerships that can reduce the cost of electricity in Maine and help us to better understand the energy potential of our forests.
In this energy crisis, we will develop renewable sources of energy made in Maine, by Maine businesses for Maine people.
I was still a young boy when President Kennedy was elected in 1960. My father served as a delegate for him at the national convention. Kennedy’s words still hold power today.
He said: “The dynamic of democracy is the power and the purpose of the individual, and the policy of this administration is to give to the individual the opportunity to realize his or her own highest possibilities.”
It’s an ideal that helps guide us today.
Through our workforce training initiatives, investments in research and development, and Pine Tree Economic Development Zones, we want to enhance the power of the private sector to create good jobs with good benefits.
Between November 2006 and November 2007, Maine’s economy created 4,400 new jobs despite slow growth in New England and nationally.
Since 2003, Maine’s economy has created more than 24,000 new jobs.
Our incomes have grown.
And we’ve empowered our people to become entrepreneurs.
According to the Kauffman Foundation, Maine ranked in the top five in 2006 for people who, for the first time, started their own new businesses.
This is the spirit of Maine.
In November, voters approved a $55 million dollar investment that will help those entrepreneurs develop new ideas and bring them to the market.
It’s the kind of investment that turns good ideas into good jobs.
This significant infusion of resources would not have been possible without Karen Mills and my Council on Jobs and Innovation, which she led.
Karen, thank you very much for your leadership.
Our people are strong, they are resilient and they should not be underestimated.
Given the chance, they can achieve great things.
I know it, I’ve seen it. There’s evidence of it in every part of Maine.
In Brewer, Cianbro Corporation will be creating hundreds of new manufacturing jobs.
In Lincoln, Millinocket, East Millinocket and Old Town, mills threatened with extinction are alive and successful. People are back to work.
In Belfast, athenahealth, an impressive company, has created 200 new jobs with more to come.
Maine was able to beat out Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York to attract this company.
When Maine learned that MBNA, a major employer in the State, was merging with Bank of America, there was a lot of pessimism and worry about the future.
And for good reason. There was no secret that MBNA’s workforce would be reduced and that facilities would be closed.
Now, with athenahealth and other new companies, we have successfully put people back to work in former MBNA facilities in Farmington, Portland, Presque Isle, Fort Kent, Rockland and now Belfast.
The jobs that were lost will be grown back. And hope has replaced despair for those communities.
We know we can do it.
But we must redouble our efforts to spur economic development. We cannot be lulled into a posture that sees us only able to lurch from one crisis to the next.
We must be prepared to stop trouble before it arrives at our doorstep.
I’ve asked my economic development Commissioner John Richardson and Maine State Chamber of Commerce President Dana Connors to work with the Legislature to change the way we do business for business.
We can better serve Maine’s business community with a local and regional emphasis and greater co-ordination and partnership.
We need to move our economic development efforts away from Augusta and into the communities and regions where it can do the most good.
The State’s top economic development priority should be to provide them with the support, resources and vision to help them accomplish their goals.
We all understand the Maine economy is in a time of dramatic, even historic, change.
And we all understand that our future economic success will be built upon the foundation of our people and the special qualities that define our neighborhoods, towns and our state.
People are drawn to Maine. We have what they’re looking for and what’s missing from their everyday lives.
Look at tourism, one of the bedrocks of Maine’s economy.
Last year alone, almost 42 million people visited our State.
They come for our natural beauty, our people and our vibrant historical and cultural sites.
Last year, voters showed that they understand that. They approved significant investments in conservation and in our environment. Soon, that money will be put to work.
Economic prosperity demands that we invest in our workforce, in our open landscapes, and in our historic downtowns.
Even now, we cannot become so focused on today that we sacrifice the investments that will make us stronger tomorrow.
When I visit places like Lewiston and Auburn, Biddeford and Saco and Waterville, I see the enormous potential for redevelopment. The Hathaway Creative Center in Waterville is a prime example of what is possible.
Tom Niemann is here tonight. Thank you very much.
That’s why I am supporting an historic rehabilitation tax credit. For a modest investment, we can attract millions of dollars worth of growth, which will bring new jobs, new revenues, affordable housing and new life to our cities and towns.