Workers, businesses rally behind ‘Buy America, Build Maine Act’

Posted: March 27, 2017 | Senator Jackson, State and Local Government

Jackson’s bill would support American manufacturing, reinvest taxpayer dollars in Maine

AUGUSTA — A bill by Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, would require the State of Maine to support American manufacturing and the creation of jobs in Maine when it contracts for public works or services.

The state spends hundreds of millions of dollars on procurement and contracts every year. Under current law, there’s little to stop the state from sending taxpayer dollars out of state, or from supporting companies that have outsourced jobs to other countries.

“As a logger near the Canadian border, I’ve seen firsthand what it looks like when Mainers are passed over so someone else can earn a paycheck,” said Sen. Jackson. “Every day, Canadian loggers bring their equipment into the state and bring their salaries back out with them. Mainers would have spent that money supporting our local economy. Instead, they watch helplessly while someone else reaps the economic benefit of our woods. The state can’t make private businesses or landowners support American jobs, but it sure as hell can make sure that Maine’s tax dollars are reinvested here in our communities, not sent out of state or overseas.”

Sen. Jackson’s bill — LD 956, the Buy America, Build Maine Act — would require that all public works contracts contain a provision requiring that manufactured goods, including iron and steel, must be manufactured in the United states.

It also requires that if two or more substantially similar bids are submitted for a public works contract, preference must be given to a bid submitted by an in-state contractor. If an in-state contractor submits a higher bid than an out-of-state contractor, the bill would require the state to give the Maine contractor an opportunity to match the low bid.

C.B. Smith, co-founder and CEO of Virtual Managed Solutions in Caribou, said his company had submitted a bid for a five-year state contract for web services. Despite his bid scoring well, his company was passed over in favor of a Massachusetts company whose bid was $1 million higher than his.

“If we’d won that contract, we could have hired 24 more employees in the short term, and eight full-time, permanent employees,” Smith said. “That would have a been a 25 percent growth in our workforce, and no small increase in money being spent in Central Aroostook County. By awarding this contract to an out-of-state company, the state left our community behind.”

David Grinnell, sales director at Dragon Products in Thomaston, spoke in favor of the bill’s effort to support American manufacturers. Dragon is New England’s only cement plant, and employs more than 100 Mainers. He said unfair international competition, including subsidized cement production in Quebec, threatens Dragon’s future.

The company “encourages all legislators to come together — no matter your party affiliation, the region of the state you represent, or whether you serve in the House or Senate — to promote this vital effort to defend and retain Maine manufacturing jobs against foreign competition,” Grinnell said.

Patrick Carleton works at the Sappi paper mill in Skowhegan. He’s worked in manufacturing for most of his life, only to see most of his employers pack up to move overseas.

“Maine’s tax dollars should not be used to reward companies that have moved their operations, investment dollars and jobs to foreign countries that disregard worker safety and environmental standards,” he said. “… It’s time for Maine to lead the way in saving the jobs we have and focusing on the creation of jobs that will support American manufacturing and Maine workers.”

LD 956 is a bipartisan effort, with co-sponsors from both parties in the House and Senate. The Maine AFL-CIO, the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, and several other members of the public spoke in support of LD 956 during the public hearing. The Committee will hold a work session in the coming weeks to determine its recommendation to the full Legislature.