SOUTH PORTLAND — On June 8, Maine voters will have several important decisions to make. Our choices will affect job growth, education and the Maine economy for years to come.
Question 4, the $23.75 million Maine jobs and economic development bond, will play a particularly critical role in creating jobs and building a stronger economic future for Maine businesses and communities.
We would like Maine voters to get the facts about this important effort and say “yes” to creating new Maine jobs.
If approved, Question 4 will create more than 1,000 jobs and $100 million in new economic activity by making investments in Maine small businesses, and supporting community development projects across the state. Included in these investments is $8 million to redevelop the Brunswick Naval Air Station and create a new community college campus in the midcoast.
With the closure of BNAS, Maine will have lost nearly 7,000 jobs, but the base will remain one of state’s largest economic assets, valued at more than $4 billion.
A “yes” vote on June 8 will transform the base into a new opportunity to drive economic growth, job creation and college attainment across Maine.
A cornerstone of the BNAS redevelopment plan is the creation of a midcoast campus for Southern Maine Community College. Question 4 will dedicate $4.75 million to renovate four of the five buildings that make up the new campus, ensuring they are compliant for disabled students.
Valued at more than $70 million, the new campus property was given to SMCC by the Navy at no cost, but with a requirement that the campus open within three years. The renovation funds in Question 4 are essential to meeting this deadline.
The SMCC midcoast campus represents a new model in higher education — one that is built on partnerships and focused on job creation.
The SMCC midcoast campus will serve as a catalyst for Maine’s most promising economic clusters, including composites, engineering, manufacturing, heavy equipment and health science.
The centerpiece of the SMCC midcoast campus will be the Maine Advanced Technology and Engineering Center (MATEC), a joint venture between SMCC and the University of Maine.
MATEC will create Maine’s first fully seamless education partnership, offering students associate, bachelor’s and master’s in engineering degrees.
Currently, Maine ranks 49th in the country in the per capita production of engineering graduates, a key resource for economic growth.
Looking ahead to 2012, the midcoast campus will offer other degree programs including nursing, health imaging, EMT and paramedicine, and heavy equipment maintenance and operations.
Maine Fire Training, currently a department of SMCC with statewide responsibility for firefighter training, will join the campus as well. These programs will also play a crucial role in building a stronger future Maine.
SMCC is now the fastest-growing community college in New England. Since 2003, the college has more than tripled in size. As a result, it is being stretched beyond its capacity.
In 2010, SMCC was forced to turn away an estimated 3,000 degree-seeking students due to lack of space. With the support of Question 4, the new campus will serve an additional 2,000 Maine students.
A “yes” vote on Question 4 is vital to the future of SMCC and the Brunswick Naval Air Station, but also to the economic future of the entire state.
Now more than ever, we must expand access to higher education to ensure that Maine has the highly skilled people needed to create and fill good jobs. We cannot turn away college students seeking a better future and we cannot afford to miss this economic opportunity and the enormous benefits it brings, both in new jobs and in real dollars.
All of the bonds on the June 8 ballot — the investments in wind and higher education, in our transportation and drinking-water infrastructure, and Question 4′s investment in jobs and economic development — will play a critical role in driving economic growth and job creation in Maine.
In 2010 and 2011 alone, Maine will retire nearly $170 million in old bond debt. The measures on the June ballot represent a total of only $123 million, and they will leverage $110 million in federal matching funds for economic development.
We ask Maine voters to look at the facts, to do the math and to make the right choice for Maine’s future.