On Tuesday, there’s an election in Maine, and an opportunity to move our state forward. It’s likely to be a low-key affair without the weight of a presidential or gubernatorial race to motivate participants, but the issues at stake are critically important.

On Election Day, Maine voters have a chance to say “yes” to an investment in our state that will create thousands of good-paying jobs, spark news ideas and innovation and help us better understand the world we live in.

Voters will be asked to consider Question 1, a $50 million bond that will leverage an additional $50 million in matching funds. The combined $100 million will fund research and development, and provide loans and startup capital to small businesses that have the potential for significant growth and job creation.

At a time when things in Washington are so divisive, it’s encouraging to have local issues like this that can bring us together to move Maine in a positive direction.

I work in construction, and I’m an engineer by training. I know that if you want to build a world-class laboratory, school or hospital, you must start with a solid foundation.

The investment in R&D and small-business growth will help our state build a modern and thriving economy. They are the foundations for Maine’s economy of the future.


The bond funds will also create an economic ripple effect in our communities. It’s estimated that every $1 spent on R&D generates another $2 to $4 in local spending, from restaurant meals to haircuts to durable goods purchases.

The bond represents a partnership with private industry in seven key economic sectors — biotechnology, composites and advanced materials, environmental technologies, forest products and agriculture, information technology, marine technology and aquaculture, and precision manufacturing. The bond funding would be managed by the Maine Technology Institute, which was created in 1999 to support innovation and job creation in the state.

Grants – which draw matching dollars that double, triple and quadruple their impact — are made through a comprehensive screening process that protects taxpayer dollars and ensures that projects with the greatest chance for success and the largest positive impact earn support.

Since its creation, the Maine Technology Institute has championed important projects all around the state, including work in advanced materials, pulp and paper, and forest and marine science.

The organization’s work has been critical to the state’s biotechnology sector. According to Research America — a group that advocates for discoveries in health — the biopharmaceutical sector in Maine has an annual economic output of $4.6 billion and supports nearly 20,000 jobs.

The biotech sector is a model for successful collaboration among private industry, nonprofit schools and federal and state governments. But the impact of this investment and the work that’s being done goes beyond just jobs and numbers on a balance sheet. One in 10 Mainers has a rare disease, and the research that’s being done contributes to their well-being and health.


For example, The Jackson Laboratory, which has earned past Maine Technology Institute support, is working with the National Institutes of Health to determine the relationship between strong immune responses during childhood and the onset of autoimmune disease in adults.

Democrats, Republicans and independents have a hard time agreeing on anything these days, but Question 1 on the June ballot is supported by the governor and by a supermajority in the Maine House and Maine Senate. This critical investment passed in the Maine House of Representatives 129-10 and in the Maine Senate 28-4.

The bond earned that strong support because lawmakers of all political persuasions understand this type of investment pays dividends in jobs, economic growth and in the lives of Mainers from all parts of the state and in all walks of life. But with an election in June that might not be on everyone’s radar screen, it’s critical that we all get out and vote. We have a chance to raise our voices — to put aside the things that might divide us politically — and support an idea that is straightforward and worthwhile.

Maine voters know a good investment when they see it, and Question 1 is exactly that: a great deal that will pay dividends statewide for years to come.

Joseph Picoraro is a vice president of PC Construction, where he has worked for 39 years. He lives in South Portland.

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