I am responding to Lawrence Reichard’s recent column, Civility starts with truth.

Dear Lawrence,

Yes, civility starts with truth, but truth is based on facts, not innuendo and personal attacks. When I saw that you had looked at my LinkedIn profile a few weeks ago, I expected to be asked about my background and to what degree it might be beneficial to the Nordic Aquafarms’ project in Maine. What I didn´t expect, though, was the extreme personal attacks in your opinion column, essentially accusing me of being a criminal.

I am indeed open for dialogue and debate regarding the Nordic Aquafarms project, but I would hope that we could base those discussions on facts, not conspiracy theories and false and defamatory accusations.

I also would expect that you do some proper research into who I am, and what I stand for before you come to so many conclusions about who I am (as any thorough and serious journalist would do).

It is true that I currently work as commercial director for a Norwegian company that was bought by McKesson a few years ago. As commercial director I am responsible for the distribution and sales of one-third of all medicines used in the Norway. I work within, and strongly support, a single-payer health care system with access to free health care for all citizens and in which all sales and distribution of drugs are highly regulated.

Consequently, we don’t experience the same opioid epidemic in Norway as we currently see here in the U.S. This is a serious problem, and I strongly encourage you and all other U.S. citizens to work politically to address the situation.

I have also worked for Aker Solutions, as you correctly pointed out. In my role as senior vice president for organization and human resources, I was responsible for many areas, including employee relations. The development of the “Scandinavian welfare model” is based on a close cooperation between the employers, employee organizations and the government.

There is a high degree of trust between the general population, the government and large corporations, and together we have been able to develop and sustain a society with relatively equal distribution of wealth and development. I have worked for NGOs and have been engaged in environmental issues and sustainable development for many years.

Why am I bringing this up? First, because Nordic Aquafarms represents this culture, and we intend to be good corporate citizen and a valuable, respected and responsible employer in Belfast and Maine. Secondly, because we represent a culture where dialogue based on facts and respect is a vital part of democracy and ultimately what moves us forward together.

My motivation for joining the company

I, and only I, can speak about my motivation for joining Nordic Aquafarms in Maine. Your column concludes that there is something fishy here, “since no one leaves a large corporation” to join a company like Nordic Aquafarms. Really? I guess that speaks to your value system, not mine.

Let me share my motivation for joining the company. As Erik has mentioned many times, production of fish needs to double over the next 30 years to be able to sustain the growing population in the world. This increase has to come from fish farming and the most sustainable way to do that is by farming fish on land. To reduce the environmental impact and carbon footprint, it is also vital to produce the fish close to the market where it will be consumed.

In addition, the U.S. imports more than 90 percent of its fresh seafood. Nordic Aquafarms’ mission to produce “fresh seafood close to the consumer” and to address these challenges, is something that engages me both personally and professionally. In addition, Nordic Aquafarms is a company started by Erik in our living room in Norway. I obviously have been following the growth of the company closely for years and am so proud of what Erik and his team have accomplished. I have always wanted to join the company when the time was right, and our move to the U.S. this fall provided that opportunity.

So, there’s nothing sinister here, Lawrence ― just a desire to be with my husband and to be able to contribute my skills and experience to this exciting project. Nordic aquafarms will produce approximately 7 percent of the salmon that will be consumed in the U.S. Thus, I think that it is vital that both entrepreneurs and people with commercial experience from large organizations work closely together to make this a success.

When you first drive into Maine, there is a sign that says “open for business.” I strongly hope that most citizens in Maine, Waldo County and certainly in the city of Belfast embrace this slogan, especially when it comes to good employers and environmentally responsible businesses like ours.

Nordic Aquafarms will bring jobs, taxes, leading-edge technology and other benefits to Belfast and Maine. We appreciate the support we have been given from the city and people throughout the community and Maine. I hope that they will speak up even more forcefully in support of the project, because people around the world are watching what is happening in Belfast. Your brand of personal attacks and harassment is unfortunately giving people the wrong impression about the kind of vibrant and progressive community that Belfast is, and your words will only deter others from investing in Maine.

While public relations and outreach will be one of the areas that I will oversee, I am very pleased with the job our team has been doing. Since announcing the project in January, we have held public information meetings, sent out monthly newsletters with project updates, and held countless meetings with stakeholder groups, individuals and the news media. As I have met with prospective employees and others around the state, they have invariably praised our highly visible, open and transparent communications.

As we move into the permitting phase, those efforts will continue, and I look forward to contributing to our continuing dialogue with the community and the people of Maine. I’m even willing to meet with you, Lawrence, so we can have a face-to-face discussion about my background and my motivations for wanting to help Nordic Aquafarms succeed in Belfast.

That’s how real journalists usually do things.

I look forward to working with the citizens of Belfast, and I truly hope that together we can make this project one that all of us can be proud of.

Marianne Naess

Marianne Naess will become director of operations for Nordic Aquafarms this fall.

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