Every year, the state of Maine spends millions of dollars building or improving public buildings and on public works projects. Each of these projects requires the state to buy materials and hire labor to do the work, using our tax dollars. But right now, many of these dollars go out of state, or out of the country, as the state awards projects and buys materials from the lowest bidder, with little consideration about what is best for our communities in the long term. To help make sure Maine businesses and workers – and all Maine people – are getting the biggest benefit from these public projects, Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, has introduced the Buy American, Build Maine Act. I’m a proud cosponsor of this bill, and I’m excited to share why.
The bill has two main parts. First, it requires the state to buy most of its manufactured goods, like steel and cement, from American companies. This is good policy that’s already in place for many federal projects. It supports American manufacturing jobs, keeps our dollars circulating here at home, and it avoids supporting some of the dubious business practices allowed in other parts of the world. Labor and environmental standards are often more stringent in America than they are overseas, a fact that allows some companies to manufacture their products at a much lower cost than American companies can. While we can and must do better to protect our workers and our environment here at home, the fact is that buying American manufactured goods is a win-win all around.
The second part of the bill – the Build Maine part – requires the state to give Maine companies and workers a fair chance of being awarded state contracts. Right now, if an out-of-state company outbids a Maine company by just pennies, the Maine company loses out. While this might seem like the most responsible use of your tax dollars, consider that those dollars of yours are leaving the state, and not coming back. When we hire out-of-state companies and labor, those jobs aren’t being filled by your family, friends and neighbors. Your neighborhood company isn’t getting the chance to grow and in turn invest their tax money in the community. When a Maine company and an out-of-state company submit substantially similar bids, this bill requires the state to pick the Maine company. When an out-of-state company bids just slightly less than an in-state company, the in-state company must be given the opportunity to match that lower price before losing out.
Maine is a small business state, which is something we should all be proud of and grateful for. When we support Maine small businesses, we get so much in return. Small businesses support our schools and community organizations, they give our communities character, and they are invested in and tied to every Mainer’s success. We often talk about the importance of buying local, especially around the holidays. We know it’s the right thing to do; it keeps our tax dollars local and circulating in our communities. We now need to make sure we’re doing that at every level. Especially as our small businesses and workers recover from the pandemic, they deserve our support, and they deserve policies that give them the opportunity to do the work that needs doing in their own backyards.
These policies are about giving American manufacturers and Maine companies and workers the chance to succeed. When work needs to be done in our communities, the community members funding that work with their tax dollars should have the chance to do it. By adopting the Buy American, Build Maine Act, we can lift up Maine and American companies, build a business-friendly state, and invest in the success of our communities in the long term.
If you have a story or a perspective on this to share, I would love to hear it. If I can help you or your family in any other way, please never hesitate to reach out. You can email me at Chloe.Maxmin@legislature.maine.gov, call my cell phone at (207) 200-6224, sign up for my newsletter at mainesenate.org, or follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/ChloeForSenate, even if you don’t have a Facebook account yourself.