Maine should ‘Buy American’

11 years ago

ED-Jackson-dcx-ar-4By Sen. Troy Jackson

    As we examine things we can do to improve our economy, one idea that should get more attention is to return the following words to retail labels: “Made in the U.S.A.”
    I have introduced a measure this year that would promote that concept. This bill, if passed, would direct the State of Maine to buy American-made products at every realistic opportunity. With American manufacturing still fighting to come back, one of the greatest things we can do to help is make sure that when government money is spent, it goes back into that sector and our economy. That means it will be going toward keeping good jobs with good benefits that people can be proud of.

    Too many people downplay the potential for American manufacturing. I for one think that making things is what Americans – certainly Mainers – do best. The least we can do is make sure our state supports this tradition, whether through buying potatoes from Aroostook County, steel from Pennsylvania, boots from Lewiston, or paper from our mills. Our Congressman, Mike Michaud, has been strong in pushing the United States military to purchase footwear made in America. Our troops require the best equipment, and we know that shoes made in Norridgewock and Skowhegan by New Balance meet that standard.
    Policies that direct state purchasing are not new, and there are many examples of this kind of direction benefiting our economy. In 2008, composite materials were required for 10 percent of Department of Transportation projects. According to Peggy Schaffer, the Small Business Advocate in the Secretary of State’s Office, this resulted in the construction of the world’s largest composite bridge in Boothbay, and opened new markets to Maine’s composites industry. I believe this kind of encouragement could do wonders for our forest products industry in northern Maine.
    So that we do not unnecessarily tie the state’s hands, the bill allows the state flexibility to ensure that the state’s functions are not compromised. The Buy America provision does not apply when the costs of the only available American-made products are unreasonably expensive, if the products are too limited in their availability, or if the quality of the products does not meet the standards that a state project requires. This bill simply states that when all factors are roughly equal, the state should buy American.
    This bill also means that Maine will not participate in a harmful race to the bottom. Simply put, the United States has better standards for workplace safety, clean water, and clean air than most other countries. We recently saw an extremely tragic example of what can happen when standards are too lax when more than 1,000 workers died in a factory collapse in Bangladesh. We are better than that, and we should try when possible to buy products that better reflect these values.
    The Buy America provision is a win for workers, a win for Maine businesses, and a win for our economy. It is consistent with America’s trade obligations, and flexible enough to ensure effective state operations. It is the right thing to do and I look forward to urging my colleagues in the Senate and the House to join me in supporting this bill.
    Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) is serving his third term representing Aroostook County in the Maine Senate. In the Senate, he serves as assistant majority leader and as chair of the Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee. He can be reached at either 398-4081 (home) or 436-0763 (cell), or via e-mail at SenTroy.Jackson@legislature.maine.gov