PORTLAND — Outgoing Gov. John Baldacci and a wind energy executive discussed the importance of foreign investment and renewable energy at a breakfast today at Portland’s Holiday Inn by the Bay.

“Maine businesses need to venture into the international field” to find investors and markets for their products, said Baldacci, speaking at the 15th annual governor’s breakfast, hosted by the World Affairs Council of Maine and the Maine International Trade Center.

“The future lies in the global economy,” he added. “Businesses doing business overseas are the most profitable.”

Baldacci said between 2002 and 2008, Maine’s exports rose by some $1 billion. In recent years exports declined, but they rose 37 percent year-over-year in the third quarter of 2010.

Baldacci, who has supported international investment through his Foreign Direct Investment Initiative and overseas trade missions, said foreign investment in Maine has been an economic boost to struggling communities in the state. Among the industries to benefit include forestry, food products, biotech and aircraft components, he said.

Also speaking at the event was Cleveland Kapala, director of external relations and relicensing at Canadian energy firm TransCanada Corp., which built a 44-turbine wind farm on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range near the townships of Kibby and Skinner. TransCanada has applied for regulatory approval to add 11 more turbines.

Kapala said new wind farms create jobs and inject millions of dollars into Maine’s economy.
He added that although wind power will not replace traditional electricity sources, it is a “step in the right direction.”

State regulators are scheduled to make a decision on the Kibby Mountain expansion at a meeting at 1:30 p.m. today in Bangor.

Some members of communities near wind farms have opposed the expansion, such as the roughly 100-member Friends of the Highland Mountains.

One of the group’s board members, Karen Pease, said wind farm costs are largely borne by consumers in the form of generous federal, state and local tax incentives, such as tax increment financing – essentially business loans from local government against future tax obligations.

“The developers don’t tell people that it is our money,” said Pease, whose group initially launched to oppose Highland Wind LLC’s proposal for a wind farm about 30 miles east of the Kibby Mountain site.