Two years ago, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce surveyed more than 1,000 business and professional leaders and asked them for their top policy priorities.

Three things stood out: increasing the size and skills of the state’s workforce; controlling health insurance costs; and expanding high speed internet.

At the time, none of us predicted the economic upheaval that was on its way or the terrible toll COVID-19 would take. More than 100 Mainers have lost their lives, thousands have become ill, tens of thousands have lost their jobs and businesses – from small companies to large – are struggling.

Dana Connors is president and CEO of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

As Maine people and businesses have adapted to our changed world, those three priorities are more important than ever.

That’s why the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and businesses around the state are supporting Question 1 on the July 14 statewide ballot.

Question 1 would invest $15 million to expand high speed internet. The state dollars would be matched by private, local and federal resources for a total investment of $45 million.

If there was ever any question before, we’ve learned the hard way just how important access to high speed internet is to Maine’s future.

With school buildings closed, teachers and students quickly adapted to remote learning. Workers who were able set up shop in their homes, and video conference calls replaced business meetings and travel. Telehealth substituted for office visits with doctors. And businesses used the internet to reach customers and try to maintain their sales.

And high speed internet was critical for it all.

While some parts of the state have high speed internet, those areas that don’t are at a significant disadvantage. Now is the time to help close the gap. Expanding high speed internet is the type of foundational infrastructure investment that’s necessary for Maine’s economy to recover and to stay strong into the future.

Maine also needs people and to grow our workforce. As feasibility of a large expansion of remote work has been stress tested during the pandemic, our state will be more attractive than ever to businesses and workers looking to escape the big cities and locate in places like Maine.

From that same survey two years ago, Maine’s quality of life, quality workforce and natural resources were identified as the most important factors supporting business retention and expansion.

With more workers able to live where they please and work remotely, ensuring that Maine has a strong communications infrastructure is critical to bringing them here.

Boston Globe headline tells the story: “Many workers will never go back to the office post-coronavirus.”

There’s no question that the big city will always be alluring for some workers, but with the freedom to build a different life and to work from anywhere, there is no place in the world better to consider than Maine – as long as there’s high speed internet connecting employees to their work.

Businesses locate in Maine because they want to be here. Now, more and more workers will have that same chance.

Question 1 provides a smart, common-sense investment that’s critical to rebuilding and sustaining Maine’s economy. It can help families stay connected, and expand opportunities for students. It can increase access to cutting edge health care through telehealth, and help seniors to stay in their communities as they age.

The Maine State Chamber of Commerce and chambers around the state support Question 1 because it’s good for our members, it’s good for our communities and it’s good for the people who live, work and learn here.

We hope that voters will support Question 1 on July 14 and help our state take the next steps toward economic recovery and growth.

Dana Connors is president and CEO of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce


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