By a modest estimation, over 200,000 visitors come to the Katahdin Region every year with their destination being the major northern recreation area of Mt. Katahdin and Baxter State Park. The majority of these visitors enter and leave the area via the access road that the brings them through the towns of Medway, East Millinocket, and Millinocket.
The town of Millinocket is the last town these visitors will pass through before they reach their destination.
I believe this is an important factor for businesses looking to locate in a new area to consider Millinocket. When Ames was still in business here, the Millinocket store was doing more business than some of their other locations. Even though it is not immediately off of the Interstate, Millinocketís location causes thousands of people to pass through it to reach the park and the mountain.
I donít believe Millinocketís problem is bringing people here, it is that we donít offer them a reason to stop and enjoy our town, so they simply pass through.
According to a recent census, a thirty mile service area in this region shows a population of 20,000. The lack of shopping opportunities causes this population of 20,000 to have to travel for much of their basic and casual shopping needs. With the price of gas and sometimes adverse road conditions due to winter weather, offering the people of this area an opportunity to shop with little or no travel could be very profitable.
As they say, you donít know what you have until itís gone, applies here. Over the past few years, residents have learned that shopping locally is not only the wise thing to do, but also a great privilege and a luxury that should not be taken lightly.
Between the needs of the local people and the visitors that come here to enjoy recreational activities year round, Millinocket has many needs for business and has much to offer in return.
So, why has MAGIC been unable to show positive results here?
When those who are entrusted to promote our town are speaking of population totals that neglect the other area town populations and frequently mention the distance of our town from the Interstate, it is no wonder we are not seeing positive results. We may not be located right off the Interstate, but the majority of those going to the park or the mountain will pass through our town. We need to publicize our strengths, not accentuate perceived weaknesses. Millinocket needs to give residents local shopping options and offer those passing through reasons to stop and visit. Having a town with businesses that offer options to local shoppers and visitors will go a long ways in enticing other businesses to locate here.
That is one thing Millinocket's own Economic Development Director could be doing for the town. MAGIC is not working for us, it is time to consider other options.