Millinocket Area Growth & Investment Councilís project, Home to Katahdin received $198,800.00 through a federal grant which they obtained with assistance from Susan Collins. The stated purpose for the funding of $198,800.00 was to gain information about the reason for our population decrease and to develop a plan to increase the population.
In spite of the fact that MAGIC officials claim that grant funded money is not coming from our taxes, the bottom line is whether it is local, state, or federal, it is coming from the taxes that each and every taxpayer pays. It does not just magically appear from thin air for the taking.
Though I have tried, I just can not understand why precious grant money was used to gain information that most of us know and understand already. The reason for the decrease in our population is loss of jobs. Simple enough. What is needed to increase the population is economic development for Millinocket that will provide jobs.
For $198,800.00, MAGIC has gathered 1,200 addresses of former residents and hired the Margaret Chase Smith Center to conduct research on those 1,200 former residents.
They also have amassed 600 former residents who now receive a quarterly newsletter, and were contacted by 6 former residents about coming back to start a business.
Of the 1,135 names a survey sample was sent to, 671 people responded. As expected, the majority of responses were about jobs, or rather the lack of them in Millinocket. Since many of the names and addresses for this survey were collected from the mailing list of the Stearns Alumni Association, I wonder why a survey or questionnaire could not have just been included in the Alumniís newsletter for this purpose. Surely, it would not have cost $198,800.00 to garner the information this way.
I also feel that the grant money could have been better spent on some actual economic development in the town.
It is fine and well to understand why residents have left and what is needed to entice them to return, but I think if we concentrate on the residents who are here and helping them to establish businesses, we would be better off. Establishing businesses will bring former residents home quicker than sending them a survey, since it will give them something to return to and for.
As we have seen in Lincoln, effective economic development generates more economic development. Lincoln has grown in leaps and bounds while Millinocket is still waiting for things to happen MAGICally. For all the hype we are seeing from them as election day draws nearer, that is all that it is, hype.
Incidentally, the one thing that I noticed in the packet for Home to Katahdin that I brought home from the last town meeting was that there was no mention or chart for where and how the $198,800.00 was spent in actual dollars. I wonder why?