- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

NORTH BERWICK, Maine (AP) - House Speaker Mark Eves and other Democratic lawmakers launched a “jobs tour” on Wednesday at Pratt & Whitney’s manufacturing facility, part of an effort to promote proposals for an economic boost.

Democrats want to invest $5 million over five years in at least 10 public-private regional partnerships like the one between York County Community College and Pratt & Whitney and several dozen other businesses that are using a machinist-training program to help fill 1,200 jobs, Eves said.

The York County initiative was helped by $330,000 in state funding. In addition to expanding training, the new proposal would also fund scholarships.

“By investing in training for workers and students in every region of the state, we are putting a down payment on growing the middle class,” Eves said.

Lisa Martin from the Manufacturers Association of Maine applauded the proposal.

“We are challenged with numerous training programs all over the state with no direct coordinated effort,” she said. “What we need are full classes and training labs filled with current and future workers.”

Any proposals introduced by Democrats this session will also need support from Republicans, who now control the Senate as well as the Blaine House. Republican Gov. Paul LePage received the proposal Wednesday and was reviewing it, a spokeswoman said.

The Maine Department of Labor said the proposal is similar to an effort that’s already underway.

The state used federal stimulus money to speed up training for health care workers last year, and the state received two federal grants totaling $5.6 million to target training for long-term unemployed Mainers to match employer needs and for literacy training and adult education, said Julie Rabinowitz, spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Labor.

“If they want to add more funding, then we’re happy to have them on board. But this is not a new concept. This is something the administration has been working on for several years,” she said.

Eves said the jobs tour would highlight the success of public-private partnerships and identify key areas of investment. The next stop will be next month in Aroostook County.

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