Maine has two tickets in one of the biggest business development lotteries this country has ever seen.

Amazon Corp. is planning to invest $50 billion in an East Coast headquarters that would eventually employ 50,000 people. When the deadline for proposals from around the country fell last week, the Midcoast Regional Development Authority in Brunswick and the Scarborough Downs racetrack in Scarborough had both gotten their applications in.

This one will be a long shot for Maine. But just as when you buy a Powerball ticket, you have a license to dream.

What would Maine be like with 50,000 more jobs, each averaging $100,000 a year in salary?

All those people would have to live somewhere — if they lived in one place, it would be Maine’s second biggest city. That means years of work for homebuilders and plenty of new patients for doctors and dentists, customers for lawyers and accountants.

There would be increased demand for groceries, retail stores, restaurants, barber shops and an array of small businesses. There would be new tax revenue to support teachers, police officers, firefighters and public works. Money that Amazon collects from its customers around the world would be circulating right here in Maine.


Maine has a lot to offer the retail giant. Scarborough Downs abuts an interstate highway, near an airport and is just a couple miles from some of New England’s best beaches. The former Brunswick Naval Air Station property has long runways and hangar space for a logistics operation and is across the street from the iconic Fat Boy Drive-In (lights on for service, please).

We can dream, but it’s not likely that Maine will have the winning ticket.

First of all, Amazon needs people to work at its facility. The company says it is looking for a city with 1 million residents, so that it will have enough of a talent pool to hire from.

And the way the company dangled its move to possible suitors is likely to start a bidding war for tax breaks and other publicly financed incentives. That’s a game Maine can’t afford to win, and it shouldn’t even try.

But Maine can still get something out of this exercise if it reminds us that the future doesn’t have to look so bleak. We could see positive, sustainable growth if we would be willing to do some work now.

We may not be big enough or rich enough to land Amazon this time, but we are not too small or poor to help the next Amazon get its start here. Just like we need to invest in roads and other transportation infrastructure, we also need to invest in higher education and research and development. We need to expand our workforce by retraining current Mainers while inviting new people to move here.

Some other state will probably win the lottery this time. But there’s no reason to count Maine out for good.

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