Tomorrow’s election could help Maine compete in research and technology

Maine currently invests only about one percent of its gross domestic product in research and development, which places it 45th in the nation and last in New England. This lack of state investment hampers the ability of Maine businesses and institutions to themselves invest in new technologies and growth areas.

Question 1 on the June 13th Special Referendum Election ballot would help address this shortfall, improving Maine’s competitiveness and economic growth prospects.

A vote of “yes” by voters would support issuing $50 million in bonds to fund investments in infrastructure and equipment upgrades in the state’s targeted technology sectors, as well as loans to businesses with potential for growth and job creation. Of this money, $45 million would go to the Maine Technology Institute (MTI) to invest – through a competitive application process – in infrastructure and equipment upgrades in the state’s seven targeted technology sectors, which include biotechnology, environmental technologies, and marine technology and aquaculture.

These funds will enable Maine organizations and industries to gain and hold market share and to expand employment opportunities for Mainers. For example, in 2009 MTI granted $4.45 million in state infrastructure bond funds to Bigelow Laboratory. These funds enabled us to create 50 new direct and indirect fulltime jobs, establish or expand joint ventures with 24 companies, and successfully compete for an additional 35 new research grants that brought in over $30 million to the state of Maine. These funds created permanent and well-paying jobs, generated tax revenue, and helped the state of Maine expand its competitive edge.

Additionally, state bond funds have broad economic benefit. Bigelow Laboratory spends millions of dollars each year in support of its research – much of which goes to nearly 200 merchants in about 60 communities around Maine. There are comparable statistics from research and technology organizations around the state. Funds like those up for vote on June 13 not only directly spur innovation and expansion in technology sectors, they send a influx of spending to businesses in other industries throughout Maine.

In particular, these funds can help Maine expand its marine industries, such as aquaculture. Identified as an area for strategic investment and growth in Maine, aquaculture efforts are expected to grow rapidly in the coming years, providing diversification of economic opportunity along Maine’s coast. Bigelow Laboratory is actively working with businesses in this space to connect their entrepreneurial drive with scientific knowledge that can improve their competitiveness and profitability. We are also working to help companies adapt to changing environmental conditions in the Gulf of Maine. This work has real benefits for the people and businesses of Maine, and it starts with community support from voters and philanthropic donors.

These bonds will bolster the future of our state’s economy. Through MTI’s competitive process, funds will be strategically applied to the most important and promising ideas from technology leaders. They are a crucial investment that will help Maine grow, adapt, compete, and succeed during the years to come.

Photo of toxic algae study via Bigelow Laboratory.

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