It’s rare to encounter a Mainer who doesn’t know about Bath Iron Works. Founded in 1884 right here in our City of Ships, BIW has built private, commercial and military vessels, most often for the United States Navy.

Maine’s economy, and Bath’s in particular, benefit a great deal from major employers like Bath Iron Works continuing to expand, create good-paying jobs and hire new generations of Mainers.

With our ever-changing economy, the give and take of increased globalization and the growing number of jobs being replaced by automation and technology, my top focus during my time in the Legislature has been supporting both the preservation and creation of jobs across our heritage industries, including shipbuilding and construction.

These are the kinds of jobs that, at one point, formed the foundation of a large and strong middle class. Today many Mainers still get in their cars before the crack of dawn and drive from many miles away all over the state to come here and earn what they can to support their families.

When Bath Iron Works, as the largest employer in my district, approached me to sponsor legislation to continue an existing tax incentive program to spur innovation across shipbuilding industries, I agreed.

I agreed because I wanted to do everything in my power to protect all the men and women working in shipbuilding jobs and the families they help support. I agreed because of how the shipbuilding industry supports a wide range of businesses all over the midcoast and beyond. I agreed because I want our young people to have the best possible chance to begin a manufacturing career with good pay and benefits right here in Maine, especially as many of our older workers retire.


By providing a tax incentive tied to job creation and investments companies make in themselves, I believe we can spur job growth in our shipbuilding industry, help preserve our city’s heritage and increase the chances that our economic future will be bright.

I have heard from many people who oppose this bill as originally written on both economic and philosophical grounds, and I agree with those who have told me that we need a better way to verify that our hard-earned tax dollars are being spent on Maine workers, and that any tax credit actually serves its intended purpose.

After extensive conversations with both opponents and supporters, I utilized that feedback to develop an amendment presented to the Legislature’s Taxation Committee that I believe addresses some of the concerns people expressed. Among other things, the amendment strengthens the reporting requirements so we can make sure the tax credit is purchasing real benefits for Maine taxpayers.

L.D. 1781 as amended reduces the size of the tax credit by half of what was originally proposed. Now BIW would receive a $30 million tax credit, provided that employment levels are maintained at 5,000 or more employees. The tax credit would no longer be refundable but would instead be a carry-forward credit. The minimum investment BIW would have to make to qualify for the credit is $100 million.

Further, the credit would be spread over 10 years. BIW could ask lawmakers for a second 10-year credit, but the Legislature would first take the time to evaluate how effective the credit has been before making a decision.

Additionally, in order to receive the credit, BIW would have to use part of its investment to train new workers and help facilitate a transition to a younger workforce as a disproportionate number of older workers near retirement age.


We know that wherever a single dollar of taxpayer money is spent, whether on job creation or to support Maine businesses, accountability and transparency should be a top priority.

Accordingly, my amendment would require BIW and any other qualifying shipbuilding facility to report to the Legislature annually on April 1 on a series of performances measures, including the number of qualified employees in jobs added since the previous year, and the number of qualified employees who are union members.

The report would also include the range in salary and wages and the average and median salary of employees, the types of jobs filled, the average number of contracted workers and the amount of investments made in the previous year.

And lastly, reporting would focus on measures of industry competitiveness and the overall economic impact to our state.

Making sure Maine families have access to good-paying jobs is at the core of my responsibility as a legislator and as a community member, but that priority must always be balanced with protecting our state’s limited resources.

As this bill moves through the legislative process, I hope you’ll continue to share your feedback with me and other representatives.

Jennifer DeChant is a third-term Democratic state representative from Bath.

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