AUGUSTA?Two-term Maine Gov. John Baldacci is no stranger to the Bowdoin campus. In October, Baldacci spoke at the re-opening of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, and on Monday the governor stopped by a government class to talk Maine politics with students. The Orient caught up with Baldacci this week in his State House office to discuss issues of concern to the College and its students. [Editor's note: Portions of this interview have been edited for length.]

The Bowdoin Orient: Some Bowdoin environmentalists have banded together to protest the development of land around Moosehead Lake by the Seattle-based Plum Creek Real Estate Investment Trust. What are your feelings on this issue and the larger tension inherent in preserving Maine's natural resources while encouraging outside investment and economic development in the state?

Gov. John Baldacci: That's a very good question, and I think it goes to the very heart about what is Maine and what's Maine's future. I've often said to people that I think the two most important resources in Maine are our children and our natural resources, and the more we can do to enhance and protect those two resources, then I think Maine's future is going to be bright. So when it comes to development, I think development has to work with the state of Maine and the citizens of the state of Maine. So I think you protect your quality of places and your sustainability and your viability, but also look at an opportunity to provide for good job opportunities?jobs that pay...[Natural resources and quality of life is] what's attractive to people?that's why Maine is such an attractive place. So you don't want to kind of degradate your environment, because it's really your calling card. Why would people want to come here if that's what we did? I mean, we have a wonderful trail-and-hut program and a hundred-mile wilderness trail next to it, which is a real drawing card. We have the growth in western Maine that's happening because of the wonderful hiking and outdoor recreation that we have. So I think you've got to be able to work with it. I think with Plum Creek, its development as proposed is too expansive. It's too sprawling. It is going to create a situation where you are going to be not able to keep up with the development that's there on a sustainable basis. But we need development. We need Plum Creek's development to be refined and amended, but we need to have development in Piscataquis County in a responsible way...They have an opportunity to go to existing communities in Greenville and Rockwood, where there already is development there, to work and support and build up those regions without sprawling out into the wilderness. I noticed in the paper [Tuesday] that Bangor International Airport lost a flight from Delta, and I remember what the business consultants told me: 'You don't have enough money, governor, to subsidize an airline- running service into Bangor. What you need to do is to create destinations so that people will come to visit.' We've got...wonderful opportunities to draw in people and make it a real destination, so that the [airlines] will want to be here because it's economically viable. So I think we need to work together in a way that protects the natural resources but allows for the development, and I think you do that with keeping the development more around the organized communities that already exist, and to try to rebuild the existing infrastructure that's aged and with population loss of out-migration...We need to be willing to accept a modified proposal that works in that direction. But we do need to, and we can, accomplish both.

Orient: In July, you signed a law establishing Opportunity Maine, an initiative designed to persuade Maine college students to live and work in Maine after they graduate by creating debt-relief incentives. However, I've talked to some graduates who have had difficulty finding jobs with competitive pay and opportunity for advancement. Why is Opportunity Maine a good investment, and are there other steps that Maine must take to retain college graduates?

Baldacci: Opportunity Maine is a really good and significant step to addressing the issue... [that] because in Maine we're not able to offer above the national pay average, and because [student] debt is enormous, with the incomes that Maine can provide in general, we end up losing, sometimes, our best and brightest, because they're looking for opportunities that can help to help pay off their student loans and their debts. And I think what Opportunity Maine does is it gives you tax credits to offset your student debt and bring [up] the incomes, which are hopefully rising also as time goes on, so [there is] a better debt-load balance there, and you can stay in Maine, and you want to stay in Maine, and [you're] finding those opportunities in Maine. We're also making critical investments in research and development. Maine was last in the nation, and that's one of the reasons we were kind of behind the curve with new development and jobs around those developments. But we're now catching up with everyone else...We're taking an old industry, that was older than the State of Maine, and giving it cutting-edge technology...There are more opportunities now with this cutting-edge technology. I talked to a company that bought five patents from University of Maine research, and they're going to spin businesses off from that...We now have the seed-corn to develop and grow. You're going to find better opportunities in Maine. And hopefully, in some cases, where the jobs weren't paying as much, you won't have as much student debt.

Orient: With the Brunswick Naval Air Station set to close in 2011, the region around Bowdoin College is expected to lose a substantial number of jobs and residents. Members of the Bowdoin community, like many Brunswick residents, are concerned about how the base closing will affect the town commercially and aesthetically. Are these concerns well-founded? What is the nature and degree of fallout that Bowdoin should expect from the base closing?

Baldacci: That is my No. 1 economic development issue and zone... We have to be focused on this. This is a huge part of Maine's economy. There is going to be a tremendous, negative ripple effect when they all leave, in our school systems, in our recreation programs, in our communities. Economically, socially, and culturally, it's going to be a big loss. We've got to be prepared for that...We cannot allow us to be fragmented, for division to occur. We need to unify, and we need to focus on strategies that are going to work in a good, sustainable way?a long-term way...I think we've got to take every opportunity to keep the people here that are here with the base, so we've worked hard to make sure that the workers get dual training and certification?not just from DoD [the Department of Defense], but also civilian. You've got a lot of people who can get jobs in heating and air-conditioning, and technical skill sets that need to be certified domestically, not just through DoD. I think there's an opportunity to work with the military retirees. I've told them I'd like to work on the Military Economic Development Zone...[which is] going to be an economic development incentive?it's very aggressive in terms of the incentives it gives companies to locate in that military redevelopment zone, which is the greater Brunswick area... Another thing is that Bowdoin College is an economic is a partner in the redevelopment, along with [Mid-Coast] Hospital.

Orient: But in the context of a Bowdoin student or faculty member's experience with the town...Should we be worried about losing Maine Street, local businesses, the small, family-owned businesses?

Baldacci: Well, I think that it's not going to be dramatic, and something you'll see right in front of you one day, but it will happen where you'll notice it gradually over time. And it's going to be an impact, and people need to know that there's going to be an impact. And in the meantime, let's use this time, between now and then, as much as possible to get our plans in order, get our approvals in order, and hit the ground running... And you have an advantage in the Mid-Coast region because when we investigated the education level and the skill-sets level, they were higher in [that] region than they were anywhere else in the state. So you have some really good skill sets. So you go in there with broadband internet connections?you're able to connect to this financial, this healthcare, this global economy that we're living in... You've got the best and brightest people in that area.

Orient: Government and Legal Studies is among Bowdoin's most popular majors, and Bowdoin has a long history of producing future jurists and statesmen. You managed to be elected to the Bangor City Council at age 23, and won a State Senate seat at age 27. What advice would you give Bowdoin students who aspire to political careers?

Baldacci: Your family is very, very important. And the best advice I can give you is the advice that Ed Muskie and my father gave me, which is: be yourself. Don't try to act phony and be someone you're not, but be yourself, be comfortable being yourself. Tell the truth. It sounds corny, but it works...Be yourself, tell the truth, and work hard?those are the three basics...If I saw a young person today who wanted to get involved in government, I would be so pleased. I want them involved in our government. Hey, we're going to get old people here, OK, I want young people here. I want young people to see there are young people running our government... Young people are important, and they need to be part of [governance]. Don't undersell yourself as just being a young person with no experience, because as an older person, I would look at that as an advantage. Your advantage is 'Hey, I'm young, I could go anywhere in the world, but I love Maine, I want to work to making Maine better and brighter in not only your future but my future and my children's future.'

Orient: So you wouldn't agree with somebody who said that if you're young and you haven't been out in the world, you can't do governance?

Baldacci: No, I wouldn't, because I think it has to do more with an individual, and whether the individual has what it takes to do the job.

Orient: You were at Bowdoin recently helping cut the ribbon on the new art museum, and you gave President Barry Mills golf balls. I know that you've recently played with him. Who is a better golfer?

Baldacci: Well, let me tell you something...I'd have to say we're both about even.

Orient: Oh, that's a cop-out.

Baldacci: But it's not, because I have to tell you, the round that we played golf, we were even. But what really irritated me about President Mills was that he didn't play golf before, and I've been playing it my whole life...and he, unbeknownst to me until I found out through reconnaissance later is that he had been taking lessons in anticipation of the match?that he was really a tennis player... And I said to myself 'OK John?you're a [UMaine] Black Bear, he's a Polar Bear, you can't let him beat you.' So it was the battle of the bears... There's a re-match in our future, God willing.

Orient: You'll have to doctor the next set of golf balls you give him.

Baldacci: Oh, don't worry?I'll use security. We're going to make sure the woods are covered, the water's ready... At least while I'm in office, the governor never loses.

Orient: Snipers taking out his tee shots?

Baldacci: That's right. We'll be shooting more than birdies.