Re: “Conflict imperils innovative composites program at Brunswick campus” (Dec. 20):

When you can’t compete on price, you compete on value. That is the narrative I communicate to firms considering expanding into central Maine.

Part of that value is the external economies found in this state. External economies represent cost advantages to a firm – through no effort on their own – due to the positive externalities found in the environment: the agglomeration, localization and network economies.

The composite materials facility (a public-private partnership featuring an industry laboratory, a degree training program, an industry association) at the Southern Maine Community College campus on Brunswick Landing represents such an externality.

I have showcased it – and Andy Schoenberg – to Canadian composite manufacturers and site location consultants as a shining example of the value proposition this state offers the composite manufacturing industry.

Didi Caldwell, the senior principal of Global Location Consultants, was enthralled by this institution’s capacity development potential. It would be part of the narrative she was to present to her potential composite clients.

I’ve presented the facility to two composite manufacturers – making product for the mass transit and aviation industry. These investments (upward of 200 jobs) would create a new industry segment in Maine’s composite cluster.

My instincts are to fault the community college system (I do not know the details of the dispute). The product was far more important than the process, yet it is the nature of academic bureaucrats to put greater emphasis on the latter.

I have my doubts that the community college system can replicate the value proposition that was just torn asunder. It cannot replace the external economies that the public-private partnership, the industry alliance, etc. provided – whose impact was geometrically greater than their contribution(s).

I trust that the community college system will yield in this conflict.

Brad Jackson

executive director, Kennebec Regional Development Authority

Oakland