The Brookings Institute report “Charting Maine’s Future” — the state’s blueprint for economic development — says that preservation and enhancement of Maine’s historic towns and cities is one of the keys to our future economic prosperity.

Attractive, authentic and unique towns that provide sidewalks for strolling, stores for shopping and quality living experiences are essential to tourism, our biggest industry.

The time has never been better for us to enhance these resources, reuse existing infrastructure and stimulate investments in what we already have: a historic building stock in a beautiful environmental setting that is the envy of the rest of the nation.

No other single strategy provides both the economic stimulus and the community enhancement that historic preservation offers.

While Sen. Olympia Snowe was making one of the biggest decisions of her political career, she made another decision that can pay future dividends to Maine.

She agreed to be the lead Republican sponsor of the bipartisan bill, Creating American Prosperity through Preservation (CAPP) Act (S. 2074 and H.R. 2479). This act would expand the already impressive positive impact of job creation and community revitalization arising from historic preservation tax credits.

Since its inception in 1981, the federal historic tax credit has created 2.2 million jobs and attracted $100 billion in private investment.

A recent study from Rutgers shows that the economic activity spurred by this credit actually results in a gain in revenue for the federal government. With bipartisan support in Maine, the historic tax credit record is even more impressive.

Since passage in 2008 of a parallel state historic preservation credit, Maine has seen 35 privately developed projects investing $200 million generating 4,080 jobs and $6.7 million in taxes.

These investments have occurred not only in the state’s largest cities and in former mill centers, but in small towns like Berwick, Farmington, Hallowell and Lisbon Falls.

This tax credit has allowed preservation to do what it does best: Encourage private sector investment using good rehabilitation practices to stimulate community revitalization.

The momentum of this credit has been able to continue because in early 2011, the state historic tax credit was extended for 10 years by the Republican legislature and governor.

This was well-timed. In 2011, while unemployment in construction topped 14 percent in Maine, rehabilitation of existing buildings exceeded new construction across the country.

And Maine was well-positioned with its tax credit to take full advantage.

The CAPP legislation would strengthen this track record by making it easier to use the federal credit on smaller, main street-size projects.

The state credit already has incentives for these kinds of investments. Working with the Maine Development Foundation’s Maine Downtown Center, 30 Maine communities are already spurring downtown revitalization using the Main Street Program principles, which are based on “economic development in the context of historic preservation.”

These towns are primed to use an enhanced tax credit. Bath, one of these towns, was named this spring one of only five Great American Main Streets by the program’s leader, the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The CAPP legislation also authorizes nonprofit organizations to use the credit for hard-to-finance, high-impact projects in low-income communities.

This would go well in Maine, where 15 of the historic tax credit projects investing $100 million have created 412 new units of affordable housing, many by nonprofit organizations.

In today’s economy, rehabilitation of existing buildings, particularly historic projects, is leading the construction industry and keeping engineers, architects and construction workers in business.

Such rehabilitation projects create a higher percentage of jobs than new construction, keeping the money here in Maine.

Plus, these jobs require the kind of high skill set that many small firms in our state are known for. This work is also building the real estate market, revitalization efforts and tax base in the hearts of our towns and cities.

We are proud and pleased that one of the last bills that Sen. Snowe will sponsor in her career is the CAPP legislation. And we are also proud that Rep. Mike Michaud, a member of the historic preservation caucus, is sponsoring the House version of this bill.

Maine’s congressional leaders have a long tradition of distinguished service. As Sen. Snowe passes the torch to a new leader, this bill illustrates continued bipartisan leadership in our state for innovative incentives and techniques of historic preservation.

Greg Paxton of Yarmouth is the executive director of Maine Preservation.