Friday, October 14, 2016

Job creation and buying local - By Rep. Mark Bryant

Of all the buzzwords that frequent the airwaves during election season, the one we hear most often is “jobs.”

There are many ideas tossed around in speeches and political ads about the best way to create jobs. Some are more realistic than others. Campaign rhetoric aside, I want to talk about some of the real ways we can work to create jobs - and protect the ones we already have - here in Windham and the rest of Maine.  

As you know, Maine has a long history of mill work and manufacturing jobs, but these jobs have dwindled over the past several decades. Gone are the days when Mainers could trust that hard work at a paper mill, like the Keddy Mill here in Windham, would earn them a decent living and the ability to provide for their loved ones throughout their lives. The impact our changing economy has on workers and their families can be devastating.  

We can’t control how the global economy changes over time, but we can support industries that are still active here in Maine and invest in promising new ones. As a member of the State and Local Government Committee, I was proud to work on a buy-American, buy-Maine bill last year. The bill was called “An Act to Encourage the Purchase of Products Made in Maine and Give Preference to Maine Business when Awarding Contracts.” As the title indicates, it would have given preference to American-made and especially Maine-made products and local services when awarding state contracts. This would have allowed taxpayer money to go right back into the local economy rather than out of state or overseas. 

Unfortunately, the bill didn’t make it this time because we could not gather enough Republican support, but we need to keep pushing for similar legislation in the future. Making sure we reward companies for choosing to operate in Maine and employ local workers is important. Not only that, but we know Maine-made goods are high quality. It is heartbreaking to see family businesses have to close their doors or move out of state because they simply can’t be economically viable in Maine. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen anymore. 

We also need to invest in newer industries that have a big potential to succeed here in Maine, like solar. Supporting the expansion of solar power could create over 600 new jobs and protect 300 that already exist. This will be a priority for me in the next legislature. 

On a smaller scale, another way we can each protect Maine jobs is to buy local products whenever possible. We should all keep this in mind during the coming holiday season. One of the easiest -- and most delicious -- ways to do this is to shop locally for Maine produce and food products. We can’t talk about the local economy without talking about local farms, a growing and thriving sector of our economy. 

Every dollar that we can help keep within our economy can make a difference. I’m committed to working on ways to help keep local dollars flowing locally, where they can have the biggest impact. 

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