PORTLAND – “Bad for business” is becoming an all-too-familiar refrain in Washington these days, but is it really an accurate one? As small-business owners, we don’t need to be told by pollsters and pundits that we’re hurting; we know we are.

However, we don’t want to be used as inadvertent bulwarks against progress, whether on health insurance reform, financial regulatory reform, or on clean energy reform.

As prospects for clean energy reform shift and change, we feel compelled as businesspeople — and as Mainers — to speak up in strong support of continued effort around this issue.

As Maine businesspeople, we cannot recall a year that hasn’t brought uncertainty over the cost of energy. Businesses that are larger and more diversified can easily absorb such changes. Businesses like ours, those that make up 97.4 percent of Maine’s employers, simply cannot.

To absorb fluctuating energy costs, many of us have had to cut benefits, lay off workers, and increase prices on our products and services.

What we’ve had to do to stave off the financial cost of a fluctuating energy marketplace has had a negative effect — whether direct or indirect — on every person in this state. We are tired of having to choose between our families and Maine’s families.

With the ideas on the table right now, businesses like ours — businesses that don’t directly produce clean energy goods and services — will benefit as much as the businesses that do.

We’ll benefit from things like energy audits that will teach our fellow entrepreneurs how to save thousands in heating and electricity costs, and from no-interest loans to help us implement the ideas; from technical assistance to help small businesses benefit from the bill, and capital to help us expand into the clean energy marketplace. 

Small businesses won’t see these benefits immediately, but we feel it would be incredibly shortsighted of our elected leaders in Washington, D.C., to shoot down the proposals that come forward over the next weeks and months based upon that fact.

Because in the long term, entrepreneurs know that energy reform will stabilize our costs, allow us to grow our businesses, and improve both the quantity and quality of our work force.

It will take vision, bold ideas and tough-mindedness to move forward, on our part as businesspeople and on the part of our fellow Mainers. But few people who know Maine, its history and culture, could argue that we aren’t up to the challenge.

Decades ago, as our state struggled to bring electricity to our people, Mainers in the town of Flagstaff stepped up.

In an act that would come to represent the spirit of sacrifice and community that embodies Maine, the residents of Flagstaff accepted a buyout from visionary Maine entrepreneur Walter Wyman to purchase their homes and land and flood their town.

It was a drastic act, but it allowed Wyman to expand the Dead River, creating a hydroelectric dam that would power the region for a generation.

In summarizing the flooding of his home and community, Flagstaff resident Duluth Wing said it best: “Most people just (understood) that we were going to give up our home (and) find a new place to live, for the good of everybody. That was the spirit.”

That was Maine’s spirit then, and we believe it continues to be Maine’s spirit now.

The changes energy reform will make would ripple across Maine for generations, and our opportunity is right now.

It is with that same fortitude and determination that Duluth and his neighbors exemplify, that sense of common effort in pursuit of a better future, that we write today in support of clean energy reform. As a state and as a nation, we simply cannot afford to pass it up.

 

– Special to The Press Herald