Research and development investment has demonstrated a proven return.

On Tuesday, only one matter will be on the statewide ballot, the so-called “Jobs Bond.” That fact alone should emphasize the importance placed on this bond by legislators and business leaders from all over Maine, as well as the importance for all registered voters to get out and vote on the proposal.

In the Legislature, my desire to eliminate a relatively minor piece of this proposal caused me to vote against the package. While that small piece was not eliminated, the remainder of the proposal is too important not to support.

The jobs bond is designed to create opportunities and employment for Maine people, not just over the next couple of years, but over the long term. The proposal is expected to create more than 4,000 jobs and generate millions of dollars in economic stimulus.

Anyone who has taken even a passing glance at the sobering picture presented by the U.S. Census knows that Maine is in trouble. We are losing our most important resource for our future – our young people. With them, we are losing able minds and needed talent and energy. Turning around this disastrous out-migration is a difficult challenge that demands attention on multiple fronts.

A crucially important part of meeting that challenge is continuing our investments in research and development and related infrastructure. Studies by the Maine Economic Growth Council and others have demonstrated the critical nature of R&D investments in building a wealthier Maine, with higher wages and more opportunities for all our citizens.

The organizations that will receive much of the bond proceeds like to say “we’ve kept our promises” on previous investments. Indeed, they have.

The biomedical research component alone has created hundreds of high-quality, high-paying jobs in the five laboratories here in Maine while making us a national center for biomedical research.

In addition, they have returned $7 for every dollar Maine taxpayers have invested. While creating great advancements in forestry and agriculture, the University of Maine investment has also led to jobs and more than a $4 return on every dollar invested.

If Maine citizens are ever to borrow capital funds for investments like this, now is the perfect time. Interest rates continue to be at 50-year lows, and we simply need this kind of economic stimulus.

Maine people supported last year’s economic stimulus package, and it is important that we follow those worthwhile investments with more.

There is every reason to believe that this investment will pay off as well as it has in the past.

Sen. Richard A. Bennett, R-Norway, is a former Senate president and serves on the Marine Resources Committee.


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