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Cooperation, team work and coming together for a common cause have always been Maine trademarks.

During natural disasters, emergencies and hard times, Mainers are always quick to offer a helping hand to their neighbors across the street, across town or around the state.

This summer, it’s happening again.

Late in July, we learned that Domtar would be closing its paper machine in Baileyville and reducing its work force by about 150 people in Washington County.

It was difficult news to hear, but my office and the offices of our state’s congressional delegation acted swiftly.

We put people on the ground in Washington County almost immediately to help the workers who had lost their jobs, and we held meetings on-site to discuss our approach to economic development in the region.

This week, through the cooperative efforts with Sen. Olympia Snowe, Sen. Susan Collins, Rep. Mike Michaud and Rep. Tom Allen, we have formed a state-federal task force to take a broader look at what can be done to speed Washington County’s recovery from the Domtar decision and to help find new jobs for displaced workers.

I had a long talk with Sen. Snowe about this task force Tuesday night and about the need for action. We are of one mind.

It’s absolutely necessary that the state and federal government, working with private industry and local communities, take a collaborative, unified approach to the problems that face Domtar’s former workers and their communities.

The issues are many.

Whether we’re talking about securing federal assistance to workers based on unfair trade practices, moving quickly to approve new businesses looking to relocate in Washington County or protecting existing industries, our efforts are most effective when we work together.

Going as far back as I can remember, Maine’s Congressional Delegation has worked well with the Governor’s Office and with each other when it comes to taking care of our home state.

The differences that divide the political parties fade away when the subject is jobs.

When the Pentagon took aim at Maine’s military bases, the Congressional Delegation came together with my administration to protect national security, our state economy and our work force.

We will apply that same level of determination to Domtar and Washington County.

While about 150 jobs were lost, Domtar’s pulp-making operation will continue in Baileyville. We must make sure that we do what we can to safeguard the facility, and help it grow.

Domtar still employs more than 300 people in Baileyville, and the company has told me and others that future investments there are possible.

Washington County faces a number of economic challenges, but it also has significant assets.

The Port of Eastport provides Domtar – and potentially other industries – reliable access to national and international markets.

Workers in Washington County are some of the best anywhere. They’re highly skilled and well-trained, and with a little help they can make other companies in the region successful.

And Downeast remains one of the most beautiful and relatively undiscovered gems in Maine’s tourism economy.

Maine’s Department of Labor and Department of Economic and Community Development have sent rapid response teams to Baileyville and Washington County to help displaced workers with job placement and retraining.

In addition, the Department of Labor has been working with Maine’s Congressional Delegation to receive Trade Adjustment Assistance, which helps workers get back on their feet and back to work.

We owe our workers this support. They have spent their professional lives helping to build a prosperous business and a strong community. Now we need to make sure they have the support to move on to new opportunities.

Time and again, Mainers rally to help one another. We’re doing it again.

There are political issues that divide us. We’re not always going to agree, but when it comes to taking care of our neighbors we are all on the same team.

The new federal and state task force will bring together people at every level of government and from the community to work collaboratively and move Washington County forward. Through the combined efforts and energies of this task force, we will do everything possible to bring new jobs and a new hope to Baileyville and Washington County.

At the end of the day, our common goal is to help the workers who have lost their jobs and their families, and to make sure the region can meet its full potential.

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