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Good morning. This is Governor John Baldacci.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to welcome the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to Maine.

The Secretary was invited by Congressman Mike Michaud to see firsthand the impressive achievements in technology of the University of Maine’s Advanced Engineered Wood Composites Center.

The Director of the Center, Doctor Habib Dagher, and his accomplished group of scientists and students have led the way in expanding composite technology.

This research has great potential for Maine and far beyond.

Product development has already helped to spur growth in industries critical to our State.

They play an important part in making our successful boatbuilding industry.

Even during this recession, boatbuilding remains a core industry, and composites help Maine companies remain industry leaders.

And the Composite Center is partnering with private businesses in other industries.

These are businesses small and large, and their success is good for Maine’s economy, employing people with good pay and benefits, and they create job growth.

The people of Maine should be proud of the accomplishments of the Composite Center.

The voters of Maine have directly invested in the research and development undertaken at the Center by approving past Jobs Bonds.

In partnership with the private sector, the Composite Center boasts nearly 300 product development and testing projects in the past five years.

And the benefits of this technology don’t stop there.

There is great potential for expanded use of composites in the development of renewable energy.

The University of Maine is building an addition to the Composites laboratory to conduct wind energy R&D, so that Maine can be a world leader in both onshore and offshore wind energy technologies.

We can build the materials for these wind projects here in Maine.

The reason for the Secretary’s visit this week was to view one of the one most promising achievements of the Composites Center: the “Bridge in a Back Pack” program.

The composite bridge components use an innovative design that helps us meet the challenges of rebuilding the State’s vital infrastructure using materials that are stronger and will last longer.

The first bridge in the State to be built with this technology is the Neal Bridge in Pittsfield, Maine, which opened earlier this year.

Additional projects are planned here in Maine.

Secretary LaHood was impressed with the technology and the potential for its expanded use.

He was so impressed that he promised to bring this project to the attention of his fellow cabinet-level secretaries who are a part of the “Green Cabinet” that meets about once a month in Washington.

These are high level federal officials who are pursuing clean energy and transportation solutions for our future.

The Secretary said he intends to invite Habib to make a presentation to the group, a impressive honor.

We already know our economic future is tied to our efforts to expand green technology and jobs.

With the work at the University of Maine, we can see how the State’s investment strategy is helping to spur opportunities for Maine businesses and the economy, now and into the future.

Not only did Maine earn praise from the Transportation Secretary for our innovative approaches to meeting future transportation and energy challenges.

He also commended the State and our partners for successfully moving forward with projects funded by the federal Recovery Act.

The Secretary complimented the Maine Congressional Delegation for its support of the Recovery Act’s passage, which has been crucial to improving Maine’s infrastructure while preserving and creating jobs for Mainers.

He also recognized the efforts of the State in ensuring that the federal funds are spent the right way -- putting people to work and making a lasting, positive impact on our economy by improving our highways, roads and other modes of transportation.

In fact, Maine was the first state in the nation to obligate 100 percent of its federal Recovery Act highway funds.

More than a third of those funds have been spent, meaning that from one end of the State to the other, you’re seeing Recovery Act projects that are underway.

We know that our economy – both here and nationally – has a long way to go to achieve full recovery, but these federal funds are undeniably working and making a difference in Maine.

And while we must continue to find efficiencies in the way we provide services to our citizens, we must look at the example that is provided by the Composite Center and recognize that strategic investments must be made to lay a foundation of economic growth and opportunity for Maine’s future.

There is great potential for composites to assist Maine in growing good-paying jobs and transforming our industries and infrastructure.

Smart investments matter. Even during difficult times, we must make investment in innovation a priority.

Thank you for listening, and have a great weekend.

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