While growing up in a blue-collar community with a strong union presence, “Made in America” was a label that was commonplace in most stores and on most products. Making a purchase with that label gave us a sense of pride in the fact that you were supporting a neighbor while getting what you paid for.

Somewhere along the line, that label became harder to find. If you are like me, you would like to see this trend reversed. That is why earlier this month, I proudly cosponsored a bill from Senate President Troy Jackson, LD 1411, “An Act To Establish the Maine Buy American and Build Maine Act.”

Joe Rafferty

The state of Maine has a variety of public projects every year. While we might assume that Maine businesses are the one’s fulfilling the work, the truth is that it isn’t uncommon to see an out-of-state company outbid a Maine-based company for these contracts. I think we can all agree that if our taxpayer dollars are funding a project, those funds ought to go to a Maine-based company when possible.

This bill levels that playing field in our favor, giving Maine companies a fairer shake.

When the state begins the process for our public projects, the contract for that project goes through a bidding process for companies who want to throw their hat in the ring. This bill would require that if an out-of-state company and Maine-based company place similar bids on the same project, preference would be given to the Maine-based company.

The bill does not stop there: If an out-of-state company placed a lower bid than a Maine-based company on the same project, the Maine-based business would be given an opportunity to match the lower bid and accept the job.

From where I am sitting, this bill is a no-brainer. Taxpayer dollars should go toward contracts for projects that give Maine companies a priority on receiving those contracts. Granting these contracts to Maine companies should be the norm, not the exception.

Over the years, there has been a transition of manufacturing jobs that have gone to companies overseas. When these companies receive the contracts for Maine’s public projects it can be a lose-lose for Mainers. In this scenario, Maine experiences a loss both in the opportunity to employ capable, hard-working Mainers to do the job but also because our taxpayer money leaves Maine by doing so. I am confident that the common-sense policy in the Buy American and Build Maine Act would result in more jobs for Mainers.

Mainers know the value of shopping locally. The friendly customer service you will find coupled with a quality Maine-made product is simply impossible to replicate. This bill ensures we do that same practice at the state level, as it should be. As these new public projects arise, it only makes sense to support our local businesses by having them complete the projects, not an out-of-state company.

If you ever have any comments or questions, you can always reach out to me at [email protected] or by phone at 207- 590-9902.

Joseph Rafferty is a member of the Maine State Senate representing District 34, Acton, Kennebunk, Lebanon, Moody, North Berwick, Wells, West Lebanon and part of Berwick. He can be reached at [email protected]

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