EASTPORT – Sharks, cows and Turkey have kept Eastport in the headlines in recent months. It’s an unlikely group, to be sure.

Recently, when diver Scott McNichol was underwater filming for a local fish farm, an 8-foot shark, mouth wide open, came at him. Captured on film by McNichol and uploaded to YouTube, it earned a spot on the national news and the rest is Eastport history.

And Eastport’s cows have been making headlines for months as one of several forward-looking ventures happening at the Port of Eastport, the deepest natural deep-water port in the continental United States.

As the nation’s easternmost port, Eastport is available for last stops for shipping lines, which is how cows make sense in Eastport. Many ships carry materials both inside and on on deck. And if you’ve ever loaded your car for vacation, gotten a flat tire and had to unpack to access the spare, you understand the problem here.

Cows travel in deck-loaded containers, so they have to be the last item ships pick up and the first item ships drop off. If not, the cows have to be taken off to unload what’s below, then put back on, which is simply too expensive. Eastport’s easternmost location allows us to be the last stop before they go directly to their destination, such as the nation of Turkey.

Maine’s congressional delegation is working with the U.S. Agriculture Department to permit Eastport to export cows permanently, a natural economic fit that creates good jobs by breathing new life into the dairy and shipping industries of Maine.

In preparation, the Eastport Port Authority is making its own investments so we can house the whole operation in Eastport, thus lowering customers’ costs and bringing spin-off jobs such as the manufacturing of cow containers, to Maine.

Our location also offers Eastport an opportunity to help American troops overseas, so long as the federal government approves some commonsense logistics. Currently, damaged Humvees are shipped from the Mideast to South Carolina where some are repaired, while others travel by truck for repair at Limestone.

Once repaired, the Limestone Humvees are returned — by truck — either to South Carolina or California for shipment back to the Mideast.

Remember, Eastport is the closest U.S. port to the Mideast. Let South Carolina fix all the Humvees they can fix, but put the rest on a ship sailing directly to Eastport.

Repair the Humvees in Limestone, and then export them through Eastport back to the Mideast. U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud has already spoken of this idea’s potential. We can return Humvees to our troops quickly and create and retain Maine jobs while saving taxpayers’ money.

In our longstanding business, we recently met with the new owners of the pulp mill in Baileyville, Woodland Pulp LLC. They want to keep their operations strong. And a strong Port of Eastport helps make for a strong mill — and vice versa.

Further expansion opportunities based upon our natural-resource-based economy are best found in bulk export markets. The wood chips and pellet markets are growing, especially in Europe. These are large-volume, low-margin goods that require innovative automation to move them economically. Thus, the PoE and the people of Maine are investing in a 900-foot bi-directional conveyor system. We break ground in two weeks and we will be ready to roll by fall 2011. With customers in place already, this illustrates how smart targeted investment can produce real employment for Maine.

Gov.-elect Paul LePage has said, “Want to create jobs? We’re here to help you.” The Port of Eastport, as we’ve shown here, is creating jobs.

We can do much more. Perhaps the last piece of the puzzle needed to truly make Eastport into Maine’s deep-water port is rail. The Port of Eastport has long suffered as the only port in Maine without rail service.

But even despite that, the port has overcome and thrives.

We are all aware that the rail industry in Maine needs help. The truest way to help this industry is by simply giving it new business.

So, in 2007 we reached out to the rail industry directly and discussed the potential of the port’s assets and location as a new railhead port on the East Coast. It was agreed that the port’s potential only needs to be capitalized upon. In 2009, under the stimulus act, the port, with the support of Maine’s governor and its entire congressional delegation, submitted a plan to return rail access to the Port of Eastport. Unfortunately it is not yet appproved, but all agree the idea has great merit.

We hope that as the new LePage administration and the Legislature look at improving Maine’s business climate, they look at the impact of supporting infrastructure. When they do, we hope they look at the Port of Eastport not only for its successes, but for its potential. We will take Gov.-elect LePage up on his offer and work with him to do our part.

Maine has long said that it needs a world-class deep-water port. Well, as we have the deepest in the nation already at a port that requires no dredging or other environmental impacst, the PoE is one railroad away from being just that!

The opportunities for real, forward-looking jobs are limitless.