Radio Address | Jackson: Put Maine jobs, American manufacturing first

Posted: March 10, 2017 | Senator Jackson, Weekly Radio Address

Hi, this is Senator Troy Jackson from Allagash. Thanks for listening.

I have always believed that if there’s work that needs to be done in our state, Mainers should have a chance to do it. If there’s economic activity happening in Maine, our businesses, workers and communities should benefit from it. And if there are materials or parts needed to do the job, those materials should be American-made.

I’m submitting legislation that would put those values into law, guaranteeing that if the state of Maine has business to conduct, that business benefits in-state businesses and workers and supports American manufacturers. It’s called the “Buy American and Build Maine Act,” and it puts Maine jobs and American manufacturers first.

My bill would give a preference to in-state companies when the state requests bids from contractors. That means a preference for Maine construction firms, road crews, logging companies and other service providers. It would also require the state, whenever possible, to do business with contractors that use American-made materials and goods in public works.

This is an issue that hits close to home for me. I’ve seen first hand the detriment that happens when business in Maine is conducted by people from away, who take their wages with them when they leave our state, putting our workers and our communities at a disadvantage.

I’m a logger by trade. At home in Aroostook, I’ve seen countless foreign loggers cross the border every single day to work in our forests. Canadian trucking companies come to Maine to haul wood and then return home. If Mainers had those jobs, they would have invested their wages in their communities and in our state. Instead, all the benefit of the economic activity in the woods left our state.

We know that in a global economy, we can’t close our borders off and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist. But at the very least, Mainers deserve to know that their taxpayer dollars aren’t being used to boost the fortunes of out-of-state or foreign companies and workers when there are people right here in Maine who are willing and capable of doing those jobs.

My heart went out to the families of the workers at the Casco Bay Bridge last year. Those men and women had handled the safe operation of our state’s largest drawbridge for years, only to learn that the Maine Department of Transportation was going to pull the rug out from them. DOT hired a Florida company to run the bridge. It wasn’t right, and no Mainer should have to go through that.

Mainers are an independent bunch, but we know the value of strong communities. Our state spends hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on procurement and contracted services every year. We should invest those funds in Maine jobs whenever we can.

Bills like this have been proposed in our Legislature before. We know what our opponents will say. They’ll offer sky-is-falling predictions about rising costs, and they’ll say that we can’t afford to buy American products or hire Maine workers.

I say we can’t afford not to.

Think of the cost to our state and our families when Mainers lose out on work, passed over so that others can benefit. Too many people feel like our best days are behind us. They remember the days when the mills and shipyards were bustling and the woods were full of Maine loggers. Our state was known for producing high-quality products and some of the hardest working people. Maine jobs provided enough to raise a family on, and those families built strong communities to call home.

We can’t go back in time to those days. But we can do everything within our power to give Maine businesses and workers the opportunity to succeed and thrive once again. As legislators, we don’t represent constituents in other states.

We represent Mainers, and we should prioritize the creation of jobs for Maine people. If we can’t do that, then we don’t deserve to be here.

This is Senator Troy Jackson. Thanks for listening.