In this testimony before the Maine Citizens’ Trade Committee of the State Legislature in Augusta, AIMS President Brian Lee Crowley said the choices made now will dictate the region’s future prosperity.

Using the example of St. Louis and Chicago in the middle of the 19th century, he explained that choices made by those two cities broke one and fixed the other. St. Louis rejected the potential of the railway and whithered, Chicago embraced the railway and prospered.

“The story of the railway is, in a way, a parable about ‘globalisation’, which is merely shorthand for an incredible ‘densification’ of a whole series of networks that girdle the globe and create huge and growing value for those who are connected to them,” Crowley told the committee.

That network today is the growing trade from Asia to its customers in North America. Crowley explained what that could mean:

“The size of the economic opportunity is captured in one fact: it is estimated that every container unloaded from Asia and sent on its way to customers in North America generates $1000 worth of economic activity. A million more containers a year (a perfectly reasonable target) is therefore $1-billion annually. And that doesn’t begin to touch on the other benefits, like the increased commercial and other links with Asia and the opportunities that represents, or the increased opportunities for immigration.

It doesn’t touch on the vital backhaul trading opportunities that this head haul from Asia creates for us. So the gateway that we are envisaging today is one that doesn’t just generate cargo, or containers that we wave at as they pass through on their way to final customers. This represents tax revenues, infrastructure improvements, new sources of labour and capital, a burgeoning logistics industry that connects us with the world and creates high value-added blue and white collar jobs in the region.” 

Crowley told committee members the key to diversifying the region’s final markets is to improve truck and short sea shipping service and building rail and road links through southern New Brunswick and south through Maine and the other northern New England states. It includes harmonizaton of regulations between jurisdictions, interprovincial, cross-border and interstate.

“In another time and another era, St. Louis and Chicago made different decisions about being connected or not connected to the emerging global networks, with huge consequences for each of them. We in this region are faced with a similar choice with similar far-reaching consequences. We can put ourselves on the network, or not; what is perfectly clear is that no one will do it for us. We must choose to make this happen,” Crowley concluded.

To read the complete testimony, click here.

To view the PowerPoint slides used in Crowley’s testimony, click here.