Maine Governor John Baldacci’s visit to New Brunswick this week was an historic first, and an important step in regional development.

Governor Baldacci spoke eloquently of the importance of partnerships and strategic initiatives that span the international border. His message is significant for two reasons. It speaks directly to the common challenges Maine and New Brunswick face when it comes to economic development. And it reaffirms the historic ties of trade and culture that have brought Mainers and New Brunswickers far closer to one another than to any of their other neighbours.

Since the summer election campaign, New Brunswickers have heard a great deal about the economic opportunities emerging in the energy sector, and the growing momentum in Atlantic Canada to create a regional trading block that includes northern New England. To those trying to follow the action from the sidelines, much of this talk has seemed speculative. Gov. Baldacci’s strong commitment to new partnerships in energy, transportation infrastructure and trade lends new substance to idea of “Atlantica.” And it demonstrates that those who foresee Saint John growing in importance as a regional energy hub are in touch with the reality of energy needs in the region.

If the public was especially receptive to Gov. Baldacci’s message, it is because many New Brunswickers visit Maine more often than Quebec or Nova Scotia. New Brunswick’s business leaders have learned the importance of regional co-operation. So have its municipal politicians.

The Governor’s visit was symbolic of an attempt to re-invigourate the north-south trade that once made this region a global power. The future prosperity of our separate states depends on that attempt succeeding.