Global Matters: Just the fax, Gov. LePage, just the fax

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By now the world knows that Maine Gov. Paul LePage ordered the removal of a mural from the walls of the Maine Department of Labor in Augusta. The mural depicted Mainers across the generations in the struggle for workers’ rights.

Apparently, the mural proved offensive to a visitor to the Department of Labor who, upon returning from an environment she described as like “communist North Korea,” felt moved to send the governor an anonymous fax requesting its removal.

The governor acceded to the request of the sender, a self-styled “Secret Admirer,” and also ordered removal of similarly offensive names from Department of Labor conference rooms (e.g., the Cesar Chavez Room, the Frances Perkins Room).

The next thing you know, welcome to Maine, national media.

It is remarkable that all of this was precipitated by an anonymous fax. Think of it – the governor was moved to take action by a single anonymous voice. It makes you wonder whether other plaintive cries for relief will receive the same attention.

So, here is another message the governor can expect to receive – or, rather, not receive, for reasons which will become clear.

“Dear Gov. LePage: I am the CEO of a small technology company based in the Boston area. We have 20 full-time employees now and are outgrowing our current space. Our rent here is very high, and it’s a hassle for some of our employees, customers and vendors to come to our offices.

“Much of the work we do for our clients can be done anywhere – over secure Internet lines, private networks and so on – so we have begun to consider whether we might relocate our business, or at least some portions of it, to places we might enjoy living, working and raising our families.

“I used to vacation in Maine with my family and we have some very happy associations with the state. Over the past few years we’ve watched the state’s technology infrastructure improve and become more suitable for a business like ours. We like what we’ve seen of Portland. I recently visited Bangor, too, and I had a look at some mill space in Brunswick and in Lewiston.

“It was exciting to imagine setting up shop in Maine, populating our new offices with local talent, attracting some of our Boston-based crew to the state and so on.

“Unfortunately, however, we’ve put our plans on hold. In fact, I’ve asked one of my team members here at the company to consider other locations for our company. Why? Quite frankly, we don’t think the culture of the state, at least as it is expressed in the current political environment, is a good fit for us.

“Here’s how it looks from our vantage point:

“You apparently believe the failure to remove BPA from plastics would do little more than result in a few women growing ‘little beards.’

“Our company is owned and led by a woman – me.

“You told the local chapter of the NAACP to ‘kiss your butt.’ I also recall your being ready to tell President Obama to ‘go to hell.’

“My partner is African American, and so are several of my employees.

“Today I read in The New York Times that you ordered the removal of murals from the walls of the Department of Labor because they reflected an imbalance between worker and employer. You thought they were perhaps a bit too pro-union.

“Both of my parents were members of a union and were grateful for the decent working conditions the union had been able to negotiate for them. Their own parents had been injured on the job numerous times because there were no safety rules in effect.

“All of this makes me wonder whether Maine makes any sense for me, my family and my company. It pains me to think this way, since I’m sure that most Mainers don’t share the views you’ve expressed. But, then again, the Legislature has become pretty ‘conservative’ as well.

“Bottom line, we’re not going to be moving the company to Maine just yet. We’ll see how things go for a while longer in our current situation. If we have to move, we’ll consider all our options.

“I doubt you’ll ever see this note – this is, after all, just an anonymous fax – but I wanted you to know that there are people like me and companies like mine who would have been interested in Maine, if things hadn’t taken such a weird turn.

“You see, companies like mine – creative, energetic, young, multicultural, mobile – take a variety of things into consideration as we make our growth plans.

“So, we’ll check back with Maine in a few years and see how things are going.

“Coincidentally, I hear that Maine is now officially ‘Open for Business.’

“Good luck with that.”

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Perry B. Newman is a South Portland resident and president of Atlantica Group, an international business consulting firm based in Portland, with clients in North America, Israel and Europe. He is also chairman of the Maine District Export Council.