President Biden signs an executive order during a visit to Auburn Manufacturing Inc. on Friday to highlight federal investments that have helped strengthen Maine’s economy. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

AUBURN — President Biden used a stop at a textile manufacturer in Maine on Friday to tout his administration’s economic plans and sign an executive order aimed at boosting incentives for domestic manufacturing.

The president spent about an hour at Auburn Manufacturing Inc. Friday afternoon, where he was greeted by a crowd of about 180 people, including union workers and local officials, in a warehouse decorated with American flags and a sign for “Bidenomics,” the catchphrase for the administration’s strategy of building the economy from the bottom up and middle out.

“I’m here to talk about what we’re doing to bring manufacturing back to America,” Biden told the crowd during a 25-minute speech.

His visit to Maine was his first as president and comes as he is ramping up his campaign for reelection for November 2024. Biden won both Auburn and neighboring Lewiston in 2020, but the cities also sit in Maine’s sprawling 2nd Congressional District, where former Republican President Donald Trump picked up one of the state’s four electoral votes.


Friday’s visit also was part of a national tour Biden is on with Vice President Kamala Harris to tout “Bidenomics,” which is being promoted as the polar opposite of Reaganomics, or trickle-down economics favored by many Republicans.


The president struck a mostly positive note during his speech, saying inflation in the United States is now at its lowest point in two years and the economy is growing as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Wages are growing faster than inflation,” he said. “That means an awful lot to working people where I come from. It means you have a little more money in your pockets than before.”

President Biden speaks at Auburn Manufacturing Inc. on Friday. He visited the company to highlight investments that he says have strengthened local economies and created good-paying jobs. Auburn Manufacturing produces textiles that protect against extreme heat for a variety of industries. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

While the last few decades have seen a downturn in American manufacturing, including in Maine, where the state has seen a loss in paper mill and manufacturing jobs, Biden said there have been recent positive developments, including spending on the construction of manufacturing plants that has nearly doubled in the last two years.

And he said more than 13 million new jobs have been created under his administration, including nearly 28,700 in Maine.

Biden also pointed to steps to restore manufacturing and jobs in Maine like the recent reopening of the former Madison Paper Industries mill to produce wood fiber insulation, and federal COVID-19 relief funds his administration awarded to the Sappi mill in Westbrook to invest in new technology.

“I’m not here to declare victory on the economy,” Biden said. “We have more work to do. But we have a plan for turning things around. Bidenomics is just another way of saying, ‘Restore the American dream.’ ”


While at the textile manufacturer, the president signed an executive order prioritizing a policy of “invent it here, make it here.” The White House said the order will boost incentives to manufacture new technologies in the United States when those inventions are developed using taxpayer dollars.

Biden was joined in Auburn by state and local officials, including Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque, Gov. Janet Mills, Reps. Jared Golden and Chellie Pingree, and Sen. Angus King. Actor Patrick Dempsey, who grew up in the Lewiston-Auburn area, also attended.

“Maine’s unemployment rate is at a record low, we have a near-record high number of jobs, and our GDP has grown at one of the best rates in the nation,” Mills said. “New businesses are coming to Maine and existing businesses are expanding.”

She cited the president’s American Rescue Plan as helping Auburn Manufacturing expand its production capacity.

A spokesperson for Republican Sen. Susan Collins said Collins declined an invitation to attend “because of scheduling and because of the significant political component to the trip.”

He arrived in Maine around noon at the Brunswick Executive Airport before traveling by helicopter and motorcade to Auburn Manufacturing.


Later Friday afternoon, Biden attended a campaign fundraiser at the home of Joe and Carol Wishcamper on Wolfe’s Neck in Freeport, according to a pool report from media traveling with the president. The Wishcampers are Democratic activists and donors, and Joe Wishcamper is president and owner of The Wishcamper Companies, a Portland firm that invests in affordable housing and renewable energy, according to its website.

On the way to the fundraiser, the motorcade passed onlookers, including Biden supporters waving and some holding signs.

“Maine loves Joe,” one sign, held by a woman, read. A man standing by himself in a field held a sign that read, “Tough as nails Joe Biden.”

Biden spoke to about 200 people packed in a barn behind the home, with two American flags on poles behind him. Biden said he was inspired by former Democratic Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine, who consoled Biden after the death of his first wife and their daughter in an automobile accident in 1972.

“One of the reasons I’m in politics is Ed Muskie,” Biden said.

He said he views Maine as still a place where “everybody knows everybody.”


“I’ve always thought of Maine – it’s going to sound crazy to say this – but as a virtuous place,” Biden said, according to the pool report.


There were no protesters or apparent signs of unrest outside the manufacturing facility in an industrial park Friday morning, and most people attending the speech seemed excited for the president’s visit, including Sofia Draeger, a 16-year-old high school junior from Falmouth.

Draeger said her family is always “digging into the political world and current events” at the dinner table so Biden’s visit was a rare chance to see current events play out in person.

The president’s visit did draw criticism from the Maine Republican Party.

Party Chair Joel Stetkis said that despite the president’s touting of economic recovery and manufacturing gains, many Maine households and municipalities are still facing inflation and high costs for groceries, electricity and fuel.


“When it comes to the end of the month, Maine families’ checkbooks are still being drained by (the Biden administration’s) economic policies,” Stetkis said.

Businesses also are struggling, he said. “There are probably a couple of manufacturing jobs popping up here and there, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just not working here in Maine,” Stetkis said.

A group of motorcyclists echoed that sentiment late in the day, driving down Orion Street in Brunswick Landing, which parallels the runway at the Brunswick Executive Airport, chanting “(expletive) Joe Biden” before Air Force One took off just before 6 p.m. to bring the president to Delaware.

President Biden walks with U.S. Sen. Angus King toward a waiting helicopter at Brunswick Executive Airport before departing for a visit to Auburn. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Biden had kicked off his visit to Maine at the airport earlier in the day. Brunswick resident Janice Van Etten said she came to the airport Friday morning because it seemed like “a good opportunity to see Biden from a distance and to support him.”

“He shepherded us through COVID and put the economy back together,” said Van Etten, 72.

“He wants to work in a bipartisan way,” she added when asked why she supports the president.


Cynthia Phinney, president of the Maine AFL-CIO, waited in line outside Auburn Manufacturing with several union workers Friday morning.

“We’re excited about the president being in Maine,” Phinney said. “It’s exciting when a president comes to Maine, particularly this president, who has worked really hard to build programs that bring money into communities to support not only jobs, but good jobs.”

Auburn City Councilor Stephen Milks, planning board Chair Stacey LeBlanc and planning board member Evan Cyr also were in line.

“I think it’s a cool thing for the city,” Milks said.

Milks said he “is not a super fan” of Biden and his policies, but he said Friday’s event was unique for the city. “I’m here to hopefully get to meet the president, or at least attend the event,” Milks said. “He’s coming to our city, so I think it’s great.”

Cyr was excited to see Auburn highlighted with the president’s visit. “Out of all the places he could have chose, he chose to come here, and I think that highlights some of the work we’ve been doing,” Cyr said.


Auburn Manufacturing produces extreme heat protection textiles and fabrics for the mining, oil and petrochemical, shipbuilding, glassmaking and other industries.

Kathie Leonard, the company’s founder and president, said that since its founding in 1979, Auburn Manufacturing has expanded from one facility in Mechanic Falls to two, including the one in Auburn.

The company has over 50 employees and is on track to increase its workforce by another 30 percent, Leonard said, despite challenges that include an anti-dumping complaint Auburn Manufacturing filed – and won – against China in 2016, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leonard said the American Rescue Plan and Biden administration policies have helped the company rebound. “We’re back,” she said. “We’re growing our workforce again. We’re entering new markets and we’re upgrading our plants and equipment.”

Press Herald Staff Writers Lana Cohen and Joe Lawlor, and Sun Journal Staff Writer Steve Collins contributed to this report.

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