Beth Stickney, Esq., Executive Director of the Maine Business Immigration Coalition (MeBIC)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 23, 2021
Maine Business and Higher Education Leaders Announce New Compact on Immigration
Eighty-two chambers of commerce, trade associations, businesses and institutions of higher education unite around the need for sensible immigration reform that helps grow Maine’s economy.
AUGUSTA, ME – Today, over 80 Maine businesses and higher education institutions announced the launch of the Maine Compact on Immigration. The Compact is a set of key principles for federal immigration reforms that are responsive to the needs of Maine’s employers, and for state and local policies to make Maine a destination of choice for immigrants, at a time when talent attraction and retention will be critical to the state’s economic recovery. The Compact’s signatories are representative of Maine’s diverse economy, including chambers of commerce, trade associations, individual businesses, and institutions of higher education that span the state.
This Compact is the first organized effort to articulate a unified business and educational voice in Maine on immigration issues at the federal, state and local level. Guided by the principles of the Compact, signatories will work to inform and educate policymakers on the economic contributions of immigrants to Maine’s economy and the need for a reasonable and responsive immigration system that allows Maine’s economy to grow and thrive.
According to research by New American Economy, immigrants in Maine paid $464.4 million in federal, state, and local taxes, and held $1.2 billion in spending power in 2019 alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has only brought the role of immigrants in Maine into sharper focus. New Americans fill vital roles in our response efforts — helping maintain our food supply pipeline, meet our healthcare needs, and sustain our educational system — and will play a critical role in Maine’s recovery.
The Compact was shared today with Maine’s congressional delegation via an open letter articulating the need for immigration policies that strengthen our economy and workforce, attract and retain global talent, and bring new businesses to Maine. As policymakers continue the important work of helping the economy recover from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, signatories urge them to not lose sight of the workforce shortages that will continue to challenge Maine’s growth.
Comments from leaders in support of the Maine Compact on Immigration:
Dana Connors, Maine State Chamber of Commerce
“Immigrants are critical to growing Maine’s economy. Maine’s population and workforce are aging, and employers across the state continue to be challenged by the size and skill level of the workforce. It is imperative that Maine reverse these trends, and immigrants are an important part of the solution. New Mainers are already making significant contributions to Maine’s communities and economy. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce is committed to continuing the work needed to remove barriers that make it harder for immigrants to live and work in Maine. The principles of the Maine Compact on Immigration are important to achieving that, and will help grow Maine’s workforce, attract new businesses and talent to our state, and strengthen Maine’s economy.”
Keith Bisson, President, Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI)
“As we think about economic inclusion and innovation in rural regions, welcoming people who immigrate to Maine from other countries can contribute to more broadly shared prosperity for all, building on our shared values of hard work and neighborliness,” said Keith Bisson, President, Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI). “Not only do immigrants participate in our workforce, which we depend on for food, education, health and child care, but also, small businesses owned by immigrant entrepreneurs fill needs for products and services in our communities. CEI is proud to join the Maine Compact for Immigration and work in partnership with many organizations and businesses to help bring needed immigration reform to our state and country.”
David Barber, Specialist in Business Development, Tyson Foods; President, Maine Business Immigration Coalition
“I’m in this country because it opened its doors to my grandfather when he fled to the U.S. from Armenia to find safety and opportunity. His son, his grandchildren and now his great- grandchildren all started or ran businesses that create jobs, pay taxes, and keep Maine’s economy and communities strong. Today’s immigrants are no different. They and their children bring ideas and energy that Maine and the country needs. Despite the pandemic, Maine still doesn’t have enough workers to meet employers’ needs, and cuts in recent years in refugee and family immigration have made the problem worse. Our federal immigration system is broken and desperately needs to be fixed. Also, Maine must be a state where immigrants know they can succeed. That’s why Tyson has joined over 75 other Maine businesses, associations, and colleges and universities in signing the Maine Compact on Immigration.”
Quincy Hentzel, President and CEO, Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce
“The Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce is proud to sign on to the Maine Compact on Immigration. Maine’s economy is undoubtably strengthened by the contributions of immigrants. The future of our workforce depends on the reforms outlined in this document, and we look forward to working with policy makers in Augusta and Washington to make them a reality.”
Brian Skoczenski, Chief Operating Officer, Ready Seafood
“Ready Seafood supports the Maine Compact on Immigration because we believe Maine is in a great position to not just match what other states are doing, but to be a leader in the development of better programs and systems that actually put an immigrant workforce in a position to win. As business leaders we need to stop looking at the immigrant workforce as filling a gap, and instead recognize that they can take the state of Maine to the next level not just as teammates, but as leaders.”
Deborah Bronk, PhD, President and CEO, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
“At Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, we are always looking for transformative talent, and we strongly support the principles in the Maine Compact on Immigration. The U.S. has been a visionary global leader in science and technology, in large part due to immigrants – scientists born elsewhere who brought their brilliance, talent, and experience to America. Since 2000, 40% of the Nobel Prizes won by scientists in America were immigrants. Now, much of this talent is going to other countries like Canada and China that are opening their arms at the very time that the U.S. is making it harder and harder for the international students and scientists who desperately want to stay or come here to do so. Congress must update our immigration laws if the U.S. is to be able to compete and respond to all the challenges we currently face.”
Greg Dugal, Director of Government Affairs, HospitalityMaine
“HospitalityMaine (HM) supports the Maine Compact on Immigration. Investing additional state resources in New Mainers, including expanding access to ESL programs and industry training, is an incredibly important investment in the long-term health of Maine’s economy. HM also supports federal immigration reforms to improve the fairness and functioning of our outdated immigration laws, so that students and workers from other countries have an opportunity to come and see what the United States has to offer, and so the hospitality industry has access to workers it needs in high tourism-low population density areas.”
Curtis Picard, President and CEO of the Retail Association of Maine
“The state’s 10-year economic development strategy highlights adding 75,000 people to the workforce and increasing wages by 10%. Having an economy that welcomes and works for a diverse population is critical to achieving that goal.”
James D. Herbert, PhD, President, University of New England
“Despite widespread myths to the contrary, the facts are clear: immigrants are vital contributors to our economy. As a university president who was privileged to serve on Governor Mills’ Economic Recovery Committee, I’m keenly aware of Maine’s growing demographic challenges, as well as our aspirations. There is simply no way that Maine will thrive without immigration. Higher education has an important role to play in welcoming and supporting immigrants who will contribute to our economy and our communities.”
Lori Dwyer, Esq. President and CEO, Penobscot Community Health Care
“Here at PCHC, where we serve 65,000 Mainers with quality, integrated primary care, we are acutely aware of the importance and need to hire from a broad spectrum of applicants, including New Mainers from across the globe. In health care particularly, we find that people come here wanting to contribute their skills and become part of the community. Everybody wins when we support efforts to encourage that transition. That’s why we support the principles set out in the Maine Compact on Immigration.”
Lee Umphrey, President and CEO, Eastern Maine Development Corporation
“Welcoming new Mainers into our workforce and communities will have a profound affect on our state’s economic viability. Maine can be a place of promise for all regardless of their color or place of birth.”
David Flanagan, Executive Board Chair, Central Maine Power
“CMP supports a culture that emphasizes continuous improvement and innovative ideas that challenge the status quo and drive performance. We believe innovation thrives within a healthy and sustainable employee community full of diverse perspectives – resulting in better ideas, better products, and better service.”
Adam Lee, Chairman, Lee Auto Malls
“I believe that immigration reform is vitally important for a variety of reasons. According to the Governor’s new economic plan, Maine needs to attract 75,000 new workers in the next ten years in order to replace older workers who are retiring. If there are immigrants who want to come live and work here we should be doing everything we can to help and encourage them to do so. “
Clayton Spencer, President, Bates College
“Immigration policy needs to prioritize humanity and reason over rhetoric. The future vitality of Maine, its institutions, and its innovation economy depends on full participation from a global community. At Bates, we actively recruit students, faculty, and staff from across the U.S. and the world. We also look to our local cities of Lewiston and Auburn, which benefit immeasurably from the talent and hard work of a vibrant immigrant community. We are proud to stand with leading Maine businesses and institutions, lending our voice and support to this important work.”
Ben Conniff, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at Luke’s Lobster
“Immigrant teammates are crucial to our ability to produce high quality seafood products at our plant in Saco. Without the work that they do, we would not be able to buy or sell the 5 million pounds of lobster we purchase from Maine fishermen each year, so their impact reverberates throughout the entire marine industry. With common sense reform that allows more immigrants to safely and legally come to Maine, we and countless other Maine companies would be able to build stronger teams to thrive and grow, benefiting everyone in our supply chain. We are extremely thankful for the immigrants that are part of our family and strongly advocate for policies that embraces immigrants as part of our economic engine and our diverse community.”
Kerem Durdag, President and C.O.O. at GWI
“GWI has signed on to the Maine Compact on Immigration because it firmly believes federal immigration reform is essential for the intentional and necessary inclusion of immigrants to our state and national workforce development efforts. As GWI expands the accessibility and affordability of the vital 21st century infrastructure of the internet to all citizens, such large scale endeavors are only successful if we fulfill our societal and aspirational obligation to include immigrant desire and expertise to further their economic well being as well as that of our nation.”
Beth Stickney, Esq., Executive Director of the Maine Business Immigration Coalition (MeBIC)
“MeBIC supports the principles in the Maine Compact on Immigration because, simply put, immigrants have been driving innovation and growth in the U.S. for over 400 years, and will continue to do so, if we only keep the nation’s doors open. Although Maine is the U.S.’s oldest state, with people over age 65 outnumbering those under 18, the entire country is aging at the same time that birthrates are at their lowest since 1909. If the U.S., and Maine are to have vibrant communities and a strong workforce, we need people from elsewhere. Our nation’s immigration policies have not kept up with our demographic realities. Congress must modernize our immigration laws to legalize the undocumented, who are already integral members of our workforce and communities, and to create pathways for immigrants that honor our values to protect human rights, keep families united, and that allow the U.S. to compete for global talent at every skill level, ensuring a strong economy that helps everyone thrive.”
To learn more about the Maine Compact on Immigration and its signatories, visit MECompact.org.