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Susan Collins

A Working Vacation
By Senator Susan Collins
Aug 25, 2006 - 4:55:00 PM

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Senator Susan Collins represents the State of Maine in the U.S. Senate.
By tradition, Congress recesses for the month of August. During the Senate's early years, members attempted to adjourn in the spring, before the weather in our nation's capital became unbearable. Of course, this was in the days long before air conditioning and modern ventilation systems. Today, despite those modern conveniences, the August recess continues to be a regular feature of the congressional calendar. This four-week summer break, however, is much more than a month-long vacation.

During my time in the Senate, I have always made it a priority to come home to Maine every weekend. But the extended August recess is always a good opportunity for me to visit many towns and cities, and to listen to the concerns of my constituents from York to Aroostook County. I am pleased to have been invited to take part in many events this month celebrating the success of several small businesses here in Maine and their contributions to our nation. I would like to take this opportunity to tell you more about a couple of them.

Earlier this month, I was delighted to participate in a "golden anniversary" celebration in South Paris, as Maine Machine Products marked its 50th year in business. The story of Maine Machine Products is the story of American family business at its very finest. Roland Sutton founded this company a half-century ago with a vision, a commitment to excellence, and two employees. With his sons Jeff, David, and Ted at his side, Roland's vision has grown to a "family" of 150 highly skilled and dedicated associates. His small machine shop has grown into a state-of-the-art facility producing components that are vital to defense, health care, and many other high-tech fields. The company's reputation for excellence now reaches around the world.

Coming from a family business background, I know the challenges Maine's small business owners face and the sacrifices they make. What the entire Maine Machine Products family has accomplished is truly inspiring. The company has invested in training and equipment, in developing new products, and in forming strategic alliances throughout its industry that have positioned it well for the global economy of the 21st century.

As Maine Machine Products reputation has grown around the world, it has remained very much a vital part of its community. The opportunities it provides the people of the Oxford Hills region demonstrate how important family businesses are to our great state and to our nation.

In South Portland, I visited Portland Valve. The business, which is located in a facility near the Spring Point Lighthouse, employs about 55 people. Anyone unfamiliar with the work underway inside this unassuming facility would be surprised to learn that this company is one of the U.S. Navy's leading manufacturers of air and electric valves for submarines and ships, including the new DD(X) destroyer. In response to the need for change, Portland Valve is currently completing the design and testing of what it is calling a "Smart Valve" to help reduce future maintenance on Navy ships and submarines, and thus save the American taxpayer money. The ingenuity of the owners and employees of Portland Valve makes me proud to be their advocate.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services committee, I have a particular interest in this new technology. That is why I was pleased to be able to help secure $2.5 million dollars in the Senate defense spending bill to help support this worthwhile project.

Small businesses are the backbone of Maine's economy. More than 90 percent of all Maine businesses are small, and they employ nearly two-thirds of all working Maine people. These small businesses play a vital role in our communities and our economy and are the key to the financial well-being of our state. I am always pleased to have the opportunity to personally visit these businesses and to learn, first-hand, what they feel can be done to help them to not only survive in Maine but to thrive. It truly is a great way to spend my "working vacation."

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