On Jan. 25, I visited Bucksport to see the town’s efforts on economic and community development firsthand. I started the day at the Bucksport Regional Health Center, which recently received a $2.4 million Recovery Act investment to provide mental health services and chronic-care counseling.

The Bucksport Regional Health Center has a strong record of providing exceptional health-care services for residents in the area. But as the president noted when he announced the investment during a White House ceremony in December, doctors at the health center are frequently double-booked, and the waiting rooms are often standing room only.

I have long supported community health centers because they provide vital primary care to millions of Americans. They have an open-door policy, treating patients regardless of their income or insurance coverage. In this recession, the demand for such services has skyrocketed.

The Bucksport project will allow the health center to expand and also create jobs, which will increase economic activity in the community. It is expected to employ seven construction workers for the full year, six mental health care staff working on the first floor, and five chronic-care patient staff working on the second floor.

This will complement Bucksport Regional Health Center’s mission of providing access to high-quality care by allowing the health center to provide integrated health care, an approach that has been at the forefront of current health-care reform efforts.

I also had the opportunity to tour the Gardner Commons Elderly Housing Facility. Bucksport did a great job of converting the former junior high school into housing for the elderly. I was happy to work with the congressional delegation to support funding for this worthwhile project.

After some lunch at Ming’s Garden Restaurant on Pine Street, I met with management and workers at the Verso Paper Mill. Verso recently received a $9.3 million Recovery Act investment for the deployment of waste energy recovery technologies at its mills, including the one in Bucksport.

The investments will save energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help the mill become more efficient and competitive. Most importantly, the investment will create a number of jobs during the construction period and will ultimately help retain existing jobs through efficiency gains that will be made at the mill.

The work that I saw being done throughout Bucksport was impressive. It is another example of Mainers across our state working hard to get through these tough economic times.

And while the Recovery Act provided important investments in Maine and tax breaks for families and small businesses, more clearly needs to be done to help our state’s economy recover.

That’s why I have called on the president and congressional leaders to refocus on pushing smart policies that will create jobs and reduce our national debt. I have also pushed for an increased focus on helping small businesses, because they are the backbone of our state’s economy.

I’m glad I had a chance to see the good work being done in Bucksport in person, and I look forward to future trips. In the meantime, my staff and I will do everything that we can to help the town and its businesses create jobs and keep existing ones right here in Bucksport.