ORONO – As he does with almost all the visitors to the University of Maine’s Advanced Engineered Wood Composites Center, Habib Dagher showed Rep. Josh Tardy, R-Newport, the center’s latest technology Friday afternoon.
For Dagher, that meant picking up one end of a 60-foot, 80-pound arch made of composite materials to prove the light weight of the structure.
“See,” Dagher said, holding the arch and moving it up and down. “I can lift it.”
Tardy and a group of visitors watched intently, perhaps envisioning the economic opportunity for the state of Maine in the lightweight material that could change bridge technology.
“[The university] certainly has changed a lot since I got out of here,” said Tardy, a 1990 UM graduate who is the House minority leader. “The university is an important player in economic development and finding energy independence and sustainability.”
Tardy was on campus for the Margaret Chase Smith Distinguished Policy Fellow Program, which brings elected officials and senior policymakers to the university for one-day programs through which they can learn more about UMaine, the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and the work of UM students and professors.
Tardy, a lawyer, is about to begin his fourth term in the Maine House. He represents District 25, comprising Corinna, part of Corinth, Exeter, Newport and Plymouth.
In addition to his visit to the wood composite center, Tardy met with UM President Robert Kennedy, spoke to 49 students in a public management class, and participated in a panel discussion about the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.
“I had great contact with the students,” Tardy said. “I think they want to know that there’s hope, and I think they just need to look around here at the university and they should have hope. There’s a lot of good things that are going on here, and as policymakers we need to be cognizant of the success and the example that UMaine has set.”
Tardy toured Colvin Hall, which houses UM’s Honors College and the Forest Bioproducts Research Initiative laboratory, before meeting with Dagher.