My home state of Maine has seen its share of hard times.  We have seen too many plants close, jobs disappear, and young people leave home to find opportunity elsewhere.

That is why during my first term in Congress I introduced a new piece of legislation to promote economic development in Maine and throughout the struggling areas of the Northeast.  The bill would create a Northern Border Economic Development Commission charged with investing federal resources in economic development and job creation in the most economically distressed areas of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.

This idea has roots that can be traced as far back as 1965, when Congress created the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).  This unique federal-state partnership was successful at promoting development in the depressed Appalachian region through regional planning, technical assistance, and funding of projects aimed at encouraging economic prosperity.

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It was a bold idea, and it worked.  According to the National Association of Development Organizations, since its creation, the ARC has reduced the number of distressed counties in its region from 219 to 100, cut the poverty rate from 31% to 15%, and helped 1,400 businesses create 26,000 new jobs since 1977.

With a record like that, other regions with economic distress began to look at this model, and realized that they needed the same kind of federal focus in their own region.

In fact, the Northeast border region has a clear, compelling case for coordinated federal investment.  Compared to most of the other regions that have an existing or proposed federal commission, the Northern border region in our commission has higher unemployment, a loss of population (every other region shows population growth), and extremely similar, and low, household income.  All of these measures are also far worse than the national average.

The bill, as in years past, has gained bipartisan support from Members of Congress in the Northern Border region.  Congressmen Paul Hodes (D-N.H.), Michael Arcuri (D-N.Y.), John McHugh (R-N.Y.), Tom Allen (D-Maine), and Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchImpeachment hearing breaks into laughter after Democrat contrasts it to Hallmark movie Diplomat ties Trump closer to Ukraine furor Impeachment hearing breaks into laughter after Democrat invites Trump to testify MORE (D-Vt.) are all original cosponsors of the bill.

Creating a regional commission would give us the chance to look at economic development in a whole new way: as a challenge that we can tackle together.  Already, the interest that this proposal has generated has helped to bring people together from many different sectors to think cooperatively about our future.