It is unfortunate that the most recent publicity concerning Maine manufacturing has been about the trials and tribulations of the Kestrel Aircraft Co. at Brunswick Landing, the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.

Kestrel is a start-up company that has not yet benefited from actually manufacturing in Maine. The company was focused primarily on securing financial incentive packages from the federal, state and local governments as well as from MRRA, the redevelopment authority for Brunswick Landing.

Kestrel’s decision to move its composite manufacturing from Brunswick Landing to Wisconsin fails to recognize the many employee attributes that enable Maine manufacturers to compete at a world-class level.

I have worked with and led employees in a number of Maine home-grown companies, including Central Maine Power and L.L. Bean. I also have managed manufacturing and product sourcing operations globally.

The one asset Maine companies have that distinguish them from companies around the world is their work force.

Maine employees have an unparalleled work ethic, are very productive, are extremely loyal and have a “Yankee ingenuity” that raises their education and training skills to an even higher level.

To compete in the global economy today, especially in manufacturing, companies must produce the highest-quality product at a reasonable cost, not simply produce at the lowest cost.

Maine manufacturers such as the Hinckley Co. (composite yachts), Cianbro (refinery and mining modules), Mid-State Machine (precision machining), L L. Bean, Fairchild Semiconductor and many others compete successfully because their highly skilled Maine employees produce world-class quality products.

These companies have some of the lowest employee turnover rates and the best safety records in their respective industries.

As a result, these companies have the highest-trained, the highest-skilled employees anywhere.

Manufacturers also must innovate continuously in order to compete in the global economy.

Innovation involves constant change in the manufacturing processes, the equipment and the product being manufactured.

Manufacturers such as Maine Tool & Machine, located at Brunswick Landing, hire and train employees, supervisors and managers who have a passion and ability for innovation.

International and local companies use Maine Tool & Machine to build prototype and custom products for the medical, energy, aerospace and military sectors.

Maine employees at companies such as Bath Iron Works, Texas Instruments and Harbor Technologies produce leading-edge, technologically advanced processes and products every day.

We wish Kestrel Aircraft success with its decision to move its composite manufacturing operation to Wisconsin, but think they would have found, as other manufacturers have found, that Maine workers could have been a major key to its success here.

And we can take solace in the fact that a 100-year-old successful Maine company, L.L. Bean, has moved the manufacturing of its rubber bottoms for the Maine hunting shoe and related products from La Crosse, Wis., to Lewiston.

Scott D. Howard is a managing partner in Harpswell Partners LLC, a strategic management consulting and investment advisory firm, which evaluates and develops strategies, strategic alliances and deal negotiations for the firm’s technology, manufacturing, retail, service-based and real estate clients.

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