Here’s a national ranking everyone should be talking about: Based on the number of graduate students in science and engineering, Maine ranks 50th in the nation.

The message that sends is devastating. It tells technology-reliant Maine companies that they won’t be able to expand without importing a work force. And it tells companies from away that are looking to move that they better not bother with Maine.

A related statistic that should concern people who are worried about Maine’s economy is this one: We spend one-third of the national average and one-sixth of the New England average on research and development.

The Legislature has an opportunity to address this problem by supporting a $20 million bond issue to support the Maine Technical Assistance Fund.

The money would be awarded on a competitive basis to companies that can attract at least a match of the state funds for research and development. It would create jobs in high-paying fields, and create demand for high-level skills from our students.

Maine can afford to borrow this money. It cannot afford to be last in this race any longer.