A recently published report on boatbuilding in Maine demonstrates that the industry is central to Maine’s economic well being.

At the same time, the report indicates that there are obstacles that could prevent boatbuilding here from thriving in the future.

“Maine’s Boatbuilding Industry: Obstacles & Opportunities,” published by Planning Decisions Inc. of South Portland, states, for example, that in 2006, “the boatbuilding industry in Maine encompassed approximately 200 business establishments. These businesses make sales of approximately $355 million, employ approximately 2,500 people and provide a payroll of $90 million.”

But among the industry’s obstacles are problems with the labor force. While noting that boatbuilding faces many of the same problems as other industries, the report points out that boatbuilding faces the problems of a decline in employees “working with your hands” and “an absence of basic work skills and attitudes.”

Faculty member Dean Pike believes that the Eastport Boat School, (officially known as the Washington County Community College’s Marine Technology Center) is in a perfect position to remedy these shortcomings.

Pike, who’s been leading the fight to keep the school functioning in Eastport, worries that the school’s future may be in jeopardy.

To reassure students who might be considering fall enrollment Pike says, “The Boat School is open and will remain open. That is the message that must go out. WCCC will be operating the boatbuilding and marine technology courses next year. The only difference is that the course work will now lead to either certificates or a degree in general technology.”

Pike was also concerned that a report on the Boat School by the state Department of Economic and Community Development, due out Feb. 1, had not surfaced by Feb. 16.

State Senator Kevin Raye, R-Perry, is also concerned about the future, and last year led the fight to get legislative funding to keep the school going.

To deal with the school’s current problems, Raye has introduced two bills into the new legislative session. “One would transfer the Boat School to the City of Eastport, and the other would require the MCCS [Maine Community College System] to continue to operate the school during the 2007-08 school year or until another entity takes over — whichever comes first,” Raye said, adding that he expected to meet with MCCS President John Fitzsimmons “after the February legislative recess.”

Raye concluded, “I’m concerned about the apparent lack of recruiting for next year’s freshman class, which I believe is very important.”

Pike said that prospective students for the fall session who have questions should call him at 207-853-2518 ext. 208 or email him at dpike@wccc.me.edu.