The nature of this blog is to build awareness about the interconnectivity and interdependence that has emerged, in this era of globalization, between local economies and the global market system. I am a strong believer that local economies like Maine’s will increasingly become more intertwined with the global market system, and less dependent on the New England economy and the national economy. If this is true, and I am convinced it is, then citizens should be more informed about the dynamics of globalization. New generations should be introduced to this reality early on, policy makers should be focusing and strategizing around this emerging dynamic, and business leaders should be projecting their long-term strategy toward this inevitable path. Nevertheless, we remain in constant denial. We still believe that we live in our own little bubble, protected from the impacts of globalization.
Our energy grid, once a public asset, is now controlled by Spanish and Canadian interests. Central Maine Power, a subsidiary of the Spanish public multinational electric utility company, Iberdrola, controls a considerable share of the market. Emera Maine, a subsidiary of Emera Incorporated from Nova Scotia, Canada, controls the other portion of the market.
When you go to the grocery market, the chances are that you are shopping in a supermarket owned by a foreign company. When shopping at Hannaford you are actually doing business with the Netherlands-based company, Ahold Delhaize. If you prefer to buy your groceries at Trader Joe’s then you are actually doing business with the German parent company, ALDI Nord. Unless you visit your local farmers market, you are destined to carry out business with foreign or regional businesses but not locally owned supermarket chains, with the exception of the IGA supermarkets which operate under a franchise model. Shaw’s supermarkets are controlled from their headquarters in Massachusetts and Whole Foods from their Amazon headquarters Seattle.
When you use electricity or when you buy your food you are immediately connected with the global market system. What you buy at the supermarket connects you even more to the global market system, and the same may be said about the majority of things you buy and consume. Take a minute and read the labels of the clothing you are wearing or the electronic device you are using, and you will find out how interconnected you are to the global market system. Your material world is more interconnected to the global market system than ever before, not to mention the components, parts and technology that make up the goods you consume or that facilitate the services you use on a daily basis.
The airplane you fly from Bangor or Portland is more than likely manufactured by Embraer S.A., the Brazilian aerospace conglomerate, or Bombardier Inc., the Montreal-based manufacturer. The vehicle you drive was partly manufacturer in Canada and another parts were, more than likely, manufactured in Mexico, and the small components and parts of that machine were probably manufacturer in numerous countries across the world.
Meanwhile, if you drive a foreign brand, that machine was probably manufactured by American workers in a plant located in Alabama (Mercedes Benz), South Carolina (B.M.W or Volvo) or Kentucky (Toyota). If you thought your Volvo was Swedish, think again, Geely, the Chinese automotive company, now manufactures Volvo for the world.
We now live in an interconnected world and we, as consumers, do not realize it, but business decision makers do. Policy makers also, but they just do not want to talk about it because their strength and leverage rests on local issues. Local issues are no longer disconnected from global issues, they are interconnected, and therefore we need to pay close attention to the dynamics between the local and global.
We need to raise awareness about the interdependent system in which new generations are being born into. Boomers were raised in a “Made in U.S.A.” world that slowly faded away; millennials, Generation Z, and those new generations that will follow will be part of a globalized system. Education needs to change, world views need to change, culture needs to change, the individual needs to change. Those who do not adapt will be at a disadvantage. Imagine the competitive edge of a Generation Z raised multilingual and globally aware in comparison to another person raised without awareness or contextualization.
Think about how quickly things are changing and how slow we are to react to those changes. Throughout the Cold War our institutions constructed this negative view of Communism; the idea of Communist Chinese investment entering our market fifty years ago would be unimaginable, McCarthyism would have killed that thought in an instant. Today, ND Paper, a subsidiary of the China-based Nine Dragons Paper Limited, is operating in Old Town and Rumford, Maine, in addition to other operations in Wisconsin and West Virginia, employing 1,200 blue collar American workers. Awarded the Foreign Direct Investor of the year by the Maine International Trade Center, the Chinese company has become the salvation for historic pulp and paper plant communities that had been forgotten by American investors only interested in advancing their own Foreign Direct Investment strategies across the global market system.
We live in such an interconnected system that Chinese capital is the one that is providing food on the table and a roof above people’s heads, in the absence of American capital. That is why it blows my mind when I read about the opposition against Nordic Aquafarms in Belfast, Maine. As in the case of ND Paper, the Norwegian company is willing to invest in our local community, generate jobs, revenues, and most important of all, integrate our market to the global market system. Yet, the voices against the international business initiative claim that environmental impacts and a threat to the beautification of the town are worth negating the opportunity for new generations to find meaningful jobs and careers in the global market system. Let’s not close the door on Foreign Direct Investment, instead embrace the opportunity to welcome the injection of capital into our economy, knowing well that our own American capital will leave our borders in search of lucrative opportunities in the global market system.
 For more information see, for example, Kaitlyn Bernard and Jackson Broadbent, “State of Energy Infrastructure in Maine 2012,” The State of Maine’s Environment. Accessed July 9, 2018. http://web.colby.edu/stateofmaine2012/state-of-energy-infrastructure-in-maine/