August 04, 2020

King offers a short list for growth> East-west highway plan slowed

BANGOR — Gov. Angus King has a short list of big ideas in his “Field of Dreams” approach to bringing business to Maine, professing that if the state builds on what it has and promotes it heavily, the companies will come here.

But the fast-paced push he suggested throughout the afternoon Thursday slowed down when he was questioned on a proposed east-west highway.

On the short list were several points — promote high technology and the state’s telecommunications system and educate students, blue- and white-collar workers and small-business owners on computer software applications. If all are emphasized, good-paying jobs will come to Maine, King said at a Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce board of directors meeting.

“If we have the most technologically advanced society on the planet, that can’t be bad,” he said.

A four-lane east-west highway, however, is not needed right away, said King. “The benefits do not outweigh the costs,” he said.

The “build-it-and-they-will-come” pronouncement for the other ideas does not carry a billion-dollar price tag, he said.

“Once the traffic can bear it, and the financial wherewithal is there … We’re trying to get a solution that would get the majority of benefits at the lowest cost,” King said.

The governor said his seven-point plan for improving existing east-west roads and the Legislature’s passage of a bill to limit access on high-speed, two-lane routes would help companies transport goods across the state.

But Bruce Nye, president of the Chamber, and others in the room wanted to know what could be done to pick up the pace of King’s seven-point plan.

Any ideas, King said, should be forwarded to John Melrose, state commissioner of transportation.

High technology and telecommunications topped King’s list and will bring more electronic commerce companies to the area, he said. He brought up as an example Putnam Investments’ decision to bring 200 mutual-fund jobs to eastern and northern Maine. Most of the employees will work from their homes on computers.

Maine’s telecommunications system is the reason Putnam and other companies such as MBNA and EnvisioNet have expanded in the state.

“I’m a big believer that success is based on a monopoly of some kind,” King said. “We have a monopoly [on telecommunications] for a couple years, but we’ve got to jump on it.”

Shortly before King’s praise of the telecommunications system at the Chamber meeting, his cell phone rang.

“Hello? Hello? Hi? Hello?” King spoke into the phone. “If you can hear me, call me back in 30 minutes.”

He hung up and turned to the group. “So much for technology,” he said.

King on Thursday also praised area facilities for their efforts to bring job growth.

At a dedication ceremony for the new Telford Aviation and Ages/Volvo Aero parts distribution center at Bangor International Airport, King said the aggressive approach by airport director Bob Ziegelaar is bringing not only passenger flights but quality maintenance companies to the facility.

“We’re all standing here feeling pretty good, and that’s great,” said King, mentioning that Telford’s expansion did not happen without financial incentives from BIA and the city of Bangor. That help, he said, is crucial to any business growth.

“They could go anywhere,” King said. “There are no guarantees that the businesses and the people will be here because we are nice people and we have a great coastline.”

Telford’s $750,000 expansion will bring 30 jobs to the area. The city of Bangor built the company’s new building, and the company will rent it for $7,000 per month.

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