Anyone who’s spent a good deal of time in Aroostook County knows what we’re about: work ethic, resourcefulness and determination. Take a deeper look, and you’ll see that we’ve also got plenty of other resources that position us for economic success, such as top-notch education, an increasingly diverse agriculture sector, proximity to markets, the transportation infrastructure to get the goods there and growing fields such as wind energy.

State policies can make the difference between propelling The County and the rest of rural Maine forward or holding us back economically. This year, the Legislature delivered a mixed bag to rural Maine.

A law to safeguard the forest products industry was one success, but we suffered a big loss with the failure to expand high-speed internet in rural Maine. I am reintroducing that bill so we can have access to this business necessity.

You’ve probably heard about how this Legislature has to deal with divided government, where one party has control of the Senate and the governorship while the other holds the majority in the House. To get things done, we’ve got to come together.

The same idea applies when we’re talking about the different parts of Maine — northern and southern, inland and coastal, rural and urban. We’re from different places and we’ve got different perspectives, but we need each other and we need to have each other’s backs if we are going to succeed as a state — as one Maine.

We did that by providing a bridge strategy to the biomass industry as it adjusts to unforeseeable turbulence in the larger wood products industry. As of 2011, the Maine Forest Products Council calculated the economic impact of the wood products industry in Maine to be worth $8 billion, supporting 17,000 jobs, with more than 6,700 of them in Aroostook County, the highest of any county.

A series of rapid changes, including low natural gas prices, a weak Canadian dollar and changes in Massachusetts’ energy policy, led to the closure of two of Maine’s six biomass plants. The other four — including the ones in Ashland and Fort Fairfield — are in jeopardy.

It’s not just the jobs in the plants. There are the loggers, the truckers, the equipment dealers and workers in mills. More than 1,000 rural Maine jobs are tied to biomass. And the overall woods products industry relies on these plants to burn and dispose their wood waste.

The measure passed by the Legislature provides the biomass industry a chance to regain its footing by allowing the Maine Public Utilities Commission to enter into two-year 80 megawatt contracts with biomass facilities here in Maine. It has taxpayer protections like performance measures and annual economic effectiveness reviews. In the meantime, a commission will identify solutions to the industry’s challenges.

When the biomass bill was moving through the Legislature, one southern Maine lawmaker jokingly said logging is something he’d see on the Discovery Channel. But he did know he couldn’t simply passively watch an entire industry collapse, devastating Maine workers, families and communities.

That’s the kind of attitude we need when it comes to other policies that impact the economic health of rural Maine. It’s what we needed with my broadband bill, LD 826, but we fell short at the end of the measure’s roller coaster ride through the Legislature. After clearing many hurdles, it became a much more modest bill that would’ve provided $1 million in funding for rural broadband expansion than the original $5 million. Even so, it died quietly when a handful of lawmakers refused to give it the funding it deserved.

This bill got started with the Aroostook County Farm Bureau and was backed by the Maine Farm Bureau. We all understand that farmers need broadband just as they need good roads, reliable electricity and access to water.

A farm is a business. And like just about any business these days, farms need high-speed internet for marketing, to process orders and to connect with customers and suppliers. Think of all the lost productivity any small business that is cut off from reliable, adequate internet.

Multiply that across rural Maine, and you can see clear as day how this is holding us back economically. In Maine, about 80 percent of addresses don’t have access to adequate internet speeds and some have no access at all.

I am not giving up the fight. I will make sure my colleagues hear loud and clear that rural Maine businesses are no less worthy of this basic business necessity than the businesses in our cities. We cannot succeed as a state — as one Maine — when state policies leave rural Maine behind.

Rep. Robert Saucier is in his second term in the Maine House and represents part of Presque Isle. He serves on the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee and the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. He also is House chair of the Maine Citizen Trade Policy Commission.