PORTLAND – Outgoing Gov. John Baldacci and a wind energy executive discussed the importance of foreign investment and renewable energy during a breakfast Wednesday at the 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 said. “Businesses doing business overseas are the most profitable.”

Baldacci said that from 2002 to 2008, Maine’s exports rose by $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 boosted struggling communities in the state. Among the industries that benefit are forestry, food products, biotech and aircraft components, he said.

Also speaking at the event was Cleveland Kapala, director of external relations and relicensing for TransCanada Corp., which plans to build 11 additional wind turbines north of Sisk Mountain in Kibby and Chain of Ponds townships, close to the Canadian border.

Kapala said Maine’s wind farms have created hundreds of jobs and injected millions of dollars into the state’s economy. And although wind power will not replace traditional electricity sources, he said it is a “step in the right direction.”

TransCanada already operates 44 wind turbines, which are 393 feet tall from the base to the top of the blades, on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range. The first phase of the Kibby project came online in the fall of 2009 and the second phase was completed this fall.

Kapala said Franklin County and the town of Eustis have supported the Kibby operation, which created 315 jobs during construction. The Kibby plant now employs 13 full-time maintenance and operations workers.

The Kibby project cost $350 million, though only $110 million was spent directly in Maine. Some of TransCanada’s equipment is built overseas, including the wind turbines, which are made by the Danish firm Vestas.

Wind farm developers in Maine face opposition from organized groups, such as the roughly 100-member Friends of the Highland Mountains.

One of the group’s board members, Karen Pease, said wind farms’ costs are largely borne by consumers in the form of federal, state and local tax incentives.

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

Pease said the towers degrade the beauty of the Kibby region, on the edge of the Bigelow public land preserve, and cannot replace traditional energy sources. “If our government is not going to protect our home, we are going to do it ourselves,” she said.

Another member of the Highland group, Alan Michka, said the expansion will initially infuse money into the local economy, but it will have limited long-term economic benefit.

“Construction on these projects lasts less than a year … And when they’re gone, so is that benefit,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or:

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