Promoting the east-west highway, Cianbro CEO Peter Vigue offered a challenge, stating, “If you have a better idea of how to improve the economy of this state, please give it to me.” I accept the challenge.

The U.S. success stories for the economy are often based around universities and the tech industries they generate and that their graduated students generate who continue to live in the university town because of its many lifestyle benefits. Examples include Silicon Valley (Stanford), Austin (Texas) and Interstate 495 (list any Boston school).

Imagine if Orono and the University of Southern Maine became the equivalent of Stanford or Texas at Austin. Imagine Orono with an endowment of $20 billion. Spend the money on buildings and programs that will attract the best and brightest to conceive new ideas, new technologies, new patents, some of which the university system can actually own.

Instead of a $20 million bond for R&D for private businesses, spend the $20 million on the two campuses in a manner that will attract an extraordinary faculty and other amazing human capital.

America’s principal business is the development of ideas that we own but that will be built in other countries. Robotics may slow this trend of outsourcing but not reverse it.

Maine needs to get serious about the production of ideas. It needs to move USM and Orono from good to the best. No other Eastern state can match our natural resources and the recreational opportunities that come with them. They offer us a huge head start in recruiting the talent needed to make Portland and Orono the next Silicon Valley.

We need to preserve them and then get serious about Orono, Portland and Maine leading the production of ideas that will re-create Maine, especially northern Maine, with an enduring, prosperous economy.

John Lambert

Cumberland

Horticulture industry gets a level playing field

It is seldom that anyone gets to follow up a scathing letter to the editor (“Law a burden to horticulture industry,” April 16) with one with real good news — but this is one!

Recently I wrote complaining that, after several decades of promises, attempts and lost chances, the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee had followed the path of least resistance and again failed to acknowledge that Maine’s horticulture industry should be included in the definition of production agriculture in Maine statute. This past occurrence was when Gov. LePage asked for the definition change in his supplemental budget, but the Appropriations Committee cut the measure.

It is with extreme pleasure that I announce that Gov. LePage did not accept this result and repeated his efforts to change the statute in the latest supplemental budget within L.D. 1746, which passed legislative approval and was signed into law May 18.

This successful change stops decades of double taxation of and discrimination against an industry that provides more than 12,000 jobs in Maine, keeps more than 17,000 acres of Maine in open space, and generates more than $250 million in annual sales.

It also stops inflationary pricing on Maine-grown nursery crops which had to be covered when consumers purchased them.

The current successful attempt was initiated through L.D. 234, legislation supported strongly by the Maine Farm Bureau, a farmer-run association that works tirelessly for the present and future of Maine’s farms and farming families.

Changing the statutory definition of agriculture to include all agriculture provides a level playing field for Maine’s horticulturists to compete fairly with neighboring states and Canadian provinces. It’s nice to know that with time and the right people listening, good things can be accomplished.

Jeff O’Donal

owner, O’Donal’s Nursery

Gorham

Unregulated corporations may kill small businesses

We often hear from politicians that they are against regulation and want to let the free-market system work. My question is, without regulations to break up “big box” monopolies like the Walmarts and Sam’s Clubs, how does the free-market concept work for small businesses that used to make up the backbone of employment in this country?

How do local mom and pop grocery or hardware stores compete with the big box monopolies like Walmart and Costco? How does a local mechanic compete with Sears Roebuck garages? How does the local feed store that grows its own compete with the likes of Monsanto?

How does the small farmer compete with the large agribusinesses or foreign imports of food raised on foreign soil owned by American big business? Without regulation, where does the local gas station buy gas to sell to compete with Exxon/Mobil, Gulf or Shell?

In my opinion, the lack of enforcement of antitrust legislation, deregulation, tax loopholes and subsidies for big corporations have all but eliminated the neighborhood grocery and hardware stores, small dairy farmers, apple orchards and all the other small businesses long since disappeared in a monopolistic market environment.

The need for more regulation aimed at the restoration of the small businesses of the past is badly needed because the free market in America today is a myth.

Patrick Eisenhart

Augusta

Laypeople want to help select new Catholic bishop

I read with interest of the decision by the Vatican to reassign Bishop Richard Malone to the Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y., and the process by which a new bishop for the Diocese of Portland will be selected.

Congratulations and best wishes are accorded Bishop Malone as he assumes his new assignment.

The process of selecting his replacement by a group of priests should be expanded to include lay representation, in keeping with the tradition in the early church whereby the laity chose the bishops who would assume the leadership of the community of faith. It was and is based on the belief that we all “share in the priesthood of Christ.”

If the bishops, at the direction of the pope and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, can reach back in time to reword the liturgy of the Mass, so too should they feel spiritually comfortable in reaching back to restore the early tradition of lay participation in the selection of a new bishop — thus raising the bar of lay ministry to dialogue and decision making as we move forward during this time of change.

We await the call!

Doris Buonomo

Saco