Start-up Maine, shut-up Brunswick?

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Some of you may have read about Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Richardson’s recent presser in Brunswick, during which the former Department of Economic and Community Development commissioner touted his “Start-up Maine” campaign to create jobs and stimulate the state economy.

The most interesting part of the event wasn’t Richardson’s plan or rhetoric, which included all the latest buzzwords seekers of public office are equipped with nowadays, “green jobs”, “removing government impediments to business attraction” and such.

It was what Richardson said before the event. 

According to one published report, Richardson, a Brunswick resident, thinks Maine – and Brunswick in particular – should adopt a better attitude toward business, to become more business friendly.

Such comments have been stated before, typically by Republicans. But in February, they were spoken, perhaps growled, by “internationally famous attorney F. Lee Bailey” (pictured, third from left, Richardson’s hand on his shoulder), who in a righteous huff, scrapped his plans to bring an aircraft refurbishing company to Brunswick Naval Air Station.

Bailey claimed his would-be investors were spooked by two Brunswick town councilors – and not, presumably, by Oxford Aviation’s involvement, which during the 2008 failed Sanford deal, was enough to turn off a previous investor despite having sunk over $400,000 into the project. The councilors had the audacity to question if Bailey’s venture was simply a new coat of paint for Oxford, which arguably, needed one.

But Bailey said the councilors’ comments reinforced Brunswick’s anti-business reputation, which apparently, has reached the boardrooms of all the national and international heavy hitters the famous attorney is accustomed to dealing with.

Richardson’s past advocacy for Oxford Aviation and his simpatico with Bailey are no secret. The duo could mutually benefit should Richardson be elected governor, admittedly a dubious likelihood if this recent poll is accurate, not to mention JR’s uncertain eligibility for Clean Elections funding.

In that context, it might not seem shocking to hear the former DECD commissioner parrot his friend’s truculent anti-business comments.

Still, it was an odd run-up to the Start-Up Maine unveiling, which took place … wait for it … in the Brunswick Industrial Park, a town-subsidized facility. The only other venue that would’ve produced more irony is Maine Street Station, a project benefiting from over $5 million in town-generated funds, bonds and grants.

Or better yet, the old Times Record building which, well … you get the point.

Undoubtedly, Richardson selected Harbor Technologies and the Brunswick Industrial Park to tout his economic plan because he thinks Maine, and Brunswick, needs more public investment in private enterprise. But under the circumstances, one could interpret his anti-business comments as a tad paradoxical, if not disingenuous.

Another of Richardson’s published comments leaves little room for interpretation, particularly the part where he warned would-be critics of business proposals that other companies read the newspapers and become wary of “unwelcoming” communities and town councils in “disarray.”

Possible subtext: Start cheerleading, preferably unanimously, or shut-up.

(Disclosure: Richardson’s wife, pictured second from left, helped deliver my son, who is healthy and typically in good spirits. Thought I’d point that out, lest anyone think I’m going too easy on her husband.)

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