LEWISTON — No ill-fitting glove. No alternate suspects or surprise witnesses, either. Famed attorney F. Lee Bailey didn’t need any legal hocus-pocus to mesmerize a crowd of hundreds at the Ramada Inn.

Speaking before a group of professional manufacturers Thursday, Bailey charmed the group during a 45-minute talk that focused — mostly — on business in Maine.

“This state,” he told the crowd of approximately 400, “does not have a reputation as business-friendly.”

Known for taxes that don’t benefit business and for an inability to attract skilled workers, this state does have some powerful attributes, nonetheless.

“Maine has some of the best workers in the country,” Bailey said. “I don’t think anybody can outrank them. Or even rank with them.”

And that, he said, is where manufacturers can find strength. Train people who are from here, he advised, instead of running in circles trying to attract workers from away. Treat them well. Keep open the lines of communication from the workers on the floor to the supervisors.

In the audience, men and women from several Maine companies listened intently as Bailey spoke. But why should they take business advice from this man most noted for his legal representation of Patty Hearst, Sam Sheppard and O.J. Simpson?

It turns out that the 78-year-old attorney knows his way around a factory every bit as well as he does a courtroom.

For 10 years, between 1970 and 1980, Bailey owned a helicopter company in Michigan.

“If you think any bureaucracy in Maine is tough,” he told the group, “try the FAA.”

He was also a partner in a boating company and has worked as a consultant, advising manufacturers on their day-to-day operations.

In addition, he has strong connections to Maine. A woman he calls his partner was born and raised in Hartland, he said. He has been coming to this state since he was a child and may have been conceived here. Bailey thinks of himself as from here, although he acknowledges that, according to the unofficial rules of being from Maine, he doesn’t qualify.

“I was kind of scheming on how to be rid of this ‘from away’ crap,” Bailey said. “Turns out, it was not easy… I found out that the best I could do was to still be from away. But not very much.”

Mostly, his message was on-target. Manufacturers, Bailey said, should not let themselves be defeated by the hardships presented by the state in which they live and do business.

“Maine is a potential gold mine for business and especially manufacturing,” Bailey said. “The integrity and skills of the state’s working people, and in inter-company dealings offers an advantage to those who choose to operate within Maine. In manufacturing, we can foresee a decided increase in productivity, as well as wages.”

Bailey headlined the Manufacturers Association of Maine annual gathering. In general, the attitude of the meeting was positive, despite the troubled economy.

“This is an exciting time for the manufacturing industry,” said Leo “Chip” Roche, president of NewFab Inc. in Auburn and chairman of the MAMe board.

“Productivity is up and so are wages,” Roche said. “Manufacturing led our country out of this long and painful recession and Maine’s manufacturing industry was a critical part of that effort.”

In spite of all the VIP manufacturers in the room, Bailey was clearly the star of the show. Those in the audience were disciplined enough to avoid asking the attorney all of those nagging questions on their minds. Was O.J. really guilty? What was it like defending Albert DeSalvo, the so-called “Boston Strangler?”

Bailey rewarded them for their tact at the end of his speech, discussing a few notable highlights of his career. The most important to him, he said, was his work with Sam Shepard, a man accused of killing his wife and the inspiration for the television series and movie “The Fugitive.” In 1966, Bailey argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that Sheppard had been denied due process. A retrial was ordered and Sheppard was acquitted.

Bailey also discussed at length his work on the My Lai Massacre in which roughly 500 unarmed civilians were slaughtered by U.S. soldiers in South Vietnam.

“It was not fun to learn that Americans were capable of that kind of conduct,” he said.

And then it was back to business. Bailey stressed three elements for those doing business in Maine: confidence, discipline and determination.

With a little extra emphasis on confidence.

“Maine is moving into the realm of the new manufacturing, with medical-device parts production, composites, marine farming and other technology-intensive sectors,” Bailey said. “There are some drawbacks, but these can be swiftly overcome if those in government and in the private sector go shoulder to shoulder and cut through red tape and nagging delays with a sharp and aggressive knife.”

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