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Kathy Gagnon

Holding On To What We Have & Moving Forward
By Kathy Gagnon
Apr 24, 2006 - 11:20:00 AM

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Papermaking in Millinocket is a thing of the past. The mill created this town, yet as with many other things in life, eventually there comes a time when one needs to move on and take control of their own destiny. So we no longer can depend on the mill to take care of our needs, that only means we need to grow and learn how to survive without it. We need to remember what we have learned along the way and use it to make our lives and our town stronger and better. Having one major benefactor for the town works only as long as that one remains strong enough to carry the load. We have learned that lesson. Now we need to move forward and encourage the growth of numerous businesses.

Successful economic development brings a higher quality of life to communities and does not change the entire town to accommodate this development. Sound economic development accommodates the town and the lifestyles of the people living there.

These need not be major industrial businesses if we have many diverse businesses employing by the dozens rather than the hundreds. This way we can offer more quality and skilled jobs with better wages and benefits. Businesses with local ownership can be more attuned to the needs of the town and its residents, as well as their employees. A strong local business community within a town makes a stronger and more attractive place for new businesses to consider locating to and better opportunity for more community services for the residents.

A good place to start in rebuilding our town would be with businesses and services for the local people so that we no longer need to travel to shop for almost everything.

With locally owned businesses, people are more apt to develop a good business relationship with the owners and shop locally and the owners are much less likely to move their business elsewhere. When we all spend within our community we strengthen our local economy and our town.

Tourism and service jobs do have a place here, and they fill a need. But, with unpredictable seasonal weather, gas prices, a need for jobs that offer better than minimum wage pay and offer health benefits, we need to consider other options as well, such as several small industry businesses with room to grow, helping existing businesses to expand, and more focused assistance for local people wishing to start a business. Annexation is something that needs to be considered in order to encourage commercial growth which could help to reduce the property tax burden on residents.

Industrial businesses which could potentially be successful in this area and be locally owned are secondary wood products, alternative energy resource development, greenhouse or field crop production, lawn care, trades and services as well as businesses within the technology industry like commercial software applications and web design.

Other businesses that would benefit local people and appeal to tourists could be a nature walk attraction and a business with activities and games for families to enjoy together which could also include indoor water slides.We need environmentally sound opportunities for our community that will not change the very things we most treasure about it. We need to develop opportunities that will not change our entire way of life. I don’t think this means we need to surrender our town, our forests and waters to others.

More and more, we are losing our local traditional ways to others. With each loss, we also lose a bit of our local culture and in some cases, family traditions. This needs to stop before we become just a faceless town with nothing to offer to the generations of families that have lived here and raised families through the good times and the bad times. We need to rebuild our town and offer opportunities for those who have had to leave to come back. Reunite the town and the families within.

This is not going to happen by focusing solely on a proposed resort outside of the town limits that will, at best, offer service jobs that most likely will be part time and not offer health benefits. Relying on one business is not a feasible option, as we have already learned. Also, we need businesses within the town limits that will contribute to the town’s tax base, not one outside that will draw from the property tax revenue and offer little in return for quality jobs and may have additional costs to the town’s taxpayers for added road maintenance, public safety, public services and waste disposal.

We should consider what a large-scale commercial development will do to the local water and air quality as well as the local forests and wildlife. Once these resources are destroyed, they will be gone forever.

Camp owners, especially, should think carefully about whether or not they will still be able to stay at their camps and enjoy the peace and quiet that they now enjoy and they need to consider the amount of traffic on the roads and in the waters that they will have to contend with.

Once this is allowed to move forward, there will be no going back.

If we can put aside differences and help each other to help the town, we can rebuild the town and have something to offer those wishing to return and those wishing to stay.

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Kathy Gagnon
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