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Kathy Gagnon

Economic Development Without MAGIC
By Kathy Gagnon
Jul 23, 2007 - 11:31:08 AM

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Economic development in Millinocket was recently the topic of a forum held by MPBN as part of their "Hometown Economies" series, taped at the Northern Timber Cruisers Clubhouse on Tuesday, July 17.

While I understood the need to touch on the subject of the Millinocket Area Growth and Investment Council (MAGIC), I had hoped to see more talk of the fresh start on economic development that Millinocket is about to enter with the recently approved hiring of an economic development assistant.

After all, continuing to dwell over the issues surrounding MAGIC is not going to change or improve anything. Leaving this issue, the failures, and the enormous amount of taxpayers funding lost on MAGIC behind, will be a step forward in itself.

A question posed at the meeting was one we have heard before, as to how we would feel five years from now when we are no further ahead in economic development if we do not support MAGIC.

First, in order to answer this question, I suppose one would have to assume that nothing good will happen here in the next five years.

Call me an optimist, but I am very much encouraged and excited at the prospect of the people of Millinocket being in charge of our own destiny with regards to economic development.

I agree with the statements that prospective businesses have the right to choose which town they want to operate in. However, I also feel that it is important for Millinocket to have someone "in our corner" helping to persuade and encourage the town chosen to be Millinocket.

I also agree that the towns of Millinocket, East Millinocket, and Medway can all benefit by working side by side for economic development in the Katahdin Region, but feel we each need a representative of our own who can work with representatives of the other towns. This way, each town has its own representative working in cooperation with each other, but each with their individual interests being looked after. Cooperation does not necessarily have to be competition.

Every time one questions the lack of actual progress from MAGIC, we are told, "It takes time". MAGIC has had more than five years of time and funding- with no progress to speak of.

I would feel much worse in another five years if we continued to throw dollar after dollar into the endless well of MAGIC, and still had nothing to show for it. To continue with something that is not working rather than regroup and try a fresh approach, would be foolish.

Yes, other programs have failed as well in the past, but in the time since, we have learned more about economic development and the need to incorporate some change in order to preserve and revitalize our town.

Each time we have tried an approach and failed to produce the desired results, it has been a learning and growing experience. Now, I believe we are ready to put these lessons to use. We know more now about what we need to beware of and what we need to pursue.

It is time to move forward.

Since the difficult times began here, other towns have also experienced hardships. Most of those towns have picked themselves up and revitalized while we have continued to lag further and further behind. Freeing ourselves from the grip of MAGIC will allow the town to follow the lead of those who have recovered before us.

The town council has chosen to end the stalemate and the controversy surrounding MAGIC. The majority of voters support this choice.

The fact that we have two councilors who continue to campaign for MAGIC will only keep the division that MAGIC has caused alive.

If they truly had the best interests of Millinocket at heart, they would accept and support the new direction the town has chosen to take rather than continue to encourage the fighting. When a town councilor publicly criticizes the town for choosing to not continue funding MAGIC (funding which, he fails to mention, was not even requested during the budget process) and accuses the town of not doing its share for the area, he is seen, not only as the Executive Director of MAGIC, but also as a town councilor and representative of the town. Coming from someone who knows the impact of additional negative publicity, I am left wondering whether he is doing his town council position, or the town, justice.

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