These are tough times for all of us. Like almost everyone in Maine, small businesses in our area are doing their best to get by. But we are also trying to look ahead at what is out there to help our economy, to give Mainers a boost when more businesses are back up and running again. That is the reason that Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce has been following the progress of the New England Clean Energy Connect transmission project, and it is hopeful that NECEC will bring our state some of the new jobs we will need to start our economic recovery.

Already, four well-known companies have received contracts totaling more than $300 million to build the project. They will need more than 1,600 people to get it done, and they will be giving preference to Mainers when they fill those jobs. The sooner they start the better, because that means money will begin flowing from these companies to their contractors and subcontractors, and in turn, out into our communities and small businesses. Even businesses that aren’t working directly on the project will still benefit from it.

Think about it. There will be 1,600 people — all making good money — who will need food to eat, places to sleep, and ways to spend time when they are not working. Every day, many of them will stop for coffee, order lunch and eat dinner at local diners and restaurants. They will rent apartments and stay in motels along the route. They will fill up their cars and trucks at area gas stations, and go into downtown shops for whatever else they might need.

The NECEC also awarded another $19 million to Maine companies to make 50,000 timber mats that will be laid down as portable roads to protect the land during construction. One of the mill owners talked about how this is a “unique opportunity” to grow his business. Now he is planning to buy new equipment for his lumber mill. He will need additional supplies and, very likely, more workers to produce the mats. He summed up the impact of the project like this: “It helps everyone … you may not know it. The end result is it’s hitting people more than they ever know … in their daily lives.”

That could not be more true. More Maine people and businesses will benefit every day from the money spent on this project than they will ever realize. In addition to the obvious construction needs for tractor drivers, backhoe operators, landscapers, and hardware, equipment, and fuel suppliers, there will be a whole sector of indirect services supported by the 1,600 women and men who will build one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Maine history.

All this spending on the New England Clean Energy Connect Project will give many Maine businesses a much-needed boost in the wake of this devastating pandemic. It will help them make up some of the business suddenly lost over the last few months, and it will help them to hire back some of the tens of thousands of people whose jobs just disappeared.

There is hope on the horizon, and it is in the form of this project. Count the Mid-Maine Chamber in favor of the New England Clean Energy Connect.

Kimberly N. Lindlof is president and CEO of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce and executive director of Central Maine Growth Council in Waterville.

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