The candidates running to represent the residents of state Senate District 23 both see examples within their own districts of the type of job creation that should serve as a statewide example.

Republican incumbent Michael Thibodeau, of Winterport, and Democratic challenger Glenn Curry, of Belfast, both believe the state must do more to attract jobs to Maine.

“The biggest issue all of us face is jobs,” Thibodeau said. “It’s the premier issue before the state.”

While Thibodeau and Curry point to success stories of two new businesses in their district, they see different paths leading to that success.

Thibodeau, who cheered the development of Front Street Shipyard in Belfast, said the state needs to take steps to encourage businesses to set up shop in Maine. The shipyard, Thibodeau said, benefited from the cooperation of the city’s economic develop offices.

“The Belfast community got behind the project and was excited to see it happen,” Thibodeau said.

But businesses typically don’t enjoy such enthusiasm at the state level. Thibodeau, who was on the energy and technology committee, sponsored a bill that requires power utilities, such as Central Maine Power Co., to return deposits to start-up businesses that pay their electric bills on time during the first year of business. The utilities used to keep the deposits, which equal to up to 90 days of energy.

“Even for a small mom-and-pop store it was thousands of dollars,” Thibodeau said. “I saw that an as obstacle to small businesses. We need to return the capital to the job creators so they can have the money to run their businesses with.”

Thibodeau, 46, went to work right after graduating from Hampden Academy in 1984. He owns a New Holland tractor dealership in Bangor. Before his election to the Senate in 2010, Thibodeau spent two terms in the House of Representatives for District 42. Thibodeau has also been a selectman in Winterport.

Curry, 42, graduated from high school in Ohio and earned a bachelor’s degree and master of science degree from Miami University in Ohio. Curry is a teacher at Cornerspring Montessori School in Belfast.

Curry has never held an elective position, but he has served on Belfast’s parks and recreation commission and spent 10 years with AmeriCorps, where he managed a 40-person project that required cooperation with municipal and nonprofit organizations across the state.

Thibodeau said the state must work to reduce energy costs, such as encouraging a natural gas pipeline, and offer tax incentives for would-be investors, instead of penalizing them. He said the electric utility deposit is just one example of a policy that hinders job creation.

“There’s all sorts of things like that you don’t read about on the front page, but they become obstacles to people becoming successful,” Thibodeau said. “As we become aware of them we need to address them.”

Curry said growing the economy will require more than a lot of jobs; it will require the right kind of jobs.

“It’s high-quality jobs that can pay the bills and people having enough money to support the small businesses that are here,” he said.  Curry’s model is Coastal Farm and Foods in Belfast, which processes food for farms within a 50-mile radius. The business set up shop in a building that was vacated when another business went under, Curry said. The Coastal Farm entrepreneurs had a personal connection with someone who was able to help them develop and write a business plan and secure U.S. Department of Agriculture loans. He said the state needs to do a better job of connecting available resources with those who need them.

“The resources seem to be there, but they are hard to access,” Curry said. “I think there’s a whole lot to be said for connecting experts with people who have great ideas.”

Like Thibodeau, Curry sees other obstacles preventing business development. None of those impediments looms larger than the cost of health care and health insurance. Curry is optimistic the national Affordable Care Act will help reduce insurance costs, but the state must begin implementing the plan.

“It has to be affordable,” Curry said. “How many businesses are not started because people don’t want to risk losing health insurance by leaving their jobs?”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642
[email protected]

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