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Kathy Gagnon

Unite for Development
By Kathy Gagnon
Sep 21, 2005 - 12:14:00 AM

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Economic development is the process in which a community organizes to work together to create and maintain a strong economy which will provide desirable jobs and a comfortable standard of living, thereby increasing the tax base so that the town can offer the level of services that its residents desire.

Legitimate economic development is an investment in the community. Competent economic development is necessary in order to retain and grow existing businesses, attract new business and investment and to assist local entrepreneurs in start-ups. The process of economic development requires a sustained effort to create economic opportunity for all the citizens while stimulating business investment to enhance the quality of life for the entire community. Growing a prosperous and healthy town attracts more business. With economic development, Millinocket can be a great place to live, work, and to grow a business. Without real economic development there is no growth or positive change in a community which leads to economic stagnation and decay or, death of a town.

We must unite all the citizens of this town in a cooperative effort with a healthy economic development as our common goal. Together, the citizens need to develop our common goals and strategies to bring our town back to life and better the lives of all who live here.

Since commercial growth will be necessary to reduce the property tax burden on residents, annexation should be considered. While annexing land does not automatically make it available, it could make the sale of it more likely. Overly restrictive annexation policies can hinder economic development and adversely affect ongoing sustainability for a community.

As the saying goes, “no man is an island”, neither is a healthy growing town. We have seen neighboring towns rebound with economic development. Millinocket needs to pursue networking efforts and align resources in order to use all our strengths in the area for the good of the entire region. Successful economic development brings a higher quality of life to communities, it does not change them to accommodate the development.

In order for our town to grow, we need to encourage existing businesses to expand and we need to attract new businesses and jobs. While we do need to encourage industry businesses that will provide high quality jobs which will pay the kind of income that will enable us to fund town services such as schools, infrastructure and public service departments, we also need to encourage and assist local entrepreneurs to start new businesses that will provide products and services that the citizens need.

Numerous micro-businesses that employ a dozen or so people will allow local citizens to help grow the town. Locally owned businesses have a personal investment in their town and are less likely to move their business elsewhere. Local ownership also means that the income produced from the business is more apt to be spent within the community strengthening the local economy. Encouraging local ownership raises the odds that the town’s culture and character will be retained since, after all, that is what makes each town home to it’s citizens.

We need to pursue environmentally sound opportunities for the area to attract business and industry that will best “fit” our community and it’s natural resources without destroying or irrecoverably changing them. Industries focusing on natural resources such as secondary wood products, alternative energy resource development, and greenhouse or field crop production are all business ventures that could be successful in this area and locally owned. Other businesses that could be grown locally are technology solutions like commercial software applications and web design, a lawn care business, a sawmill, and a wide range of trades and services.

A third component to economic development is tourism. The area has a lot to offer in natural resources. Some sort of nature walk attraction and possibly a water slide business could give citizens and tourists activities to enjoy locally.

We need to use these resources without abusing them or allowing others to abuse them. The partnership of community and wilderness can and should be preserved with careful coordination of economic development and environmental protection. Raising our community’s economy must be well enough planned to avoid destroying the woodlands and community we are trying to strengthen. Citizens and tourists will both appreciate the balance between development and wilderness.

As the town grows and more local businesses open, the town will have the resources to develop cultural opportunities and activities to enable the local citizens to share our roots and way of life with others. Having a permanent and exclusive home for the town museum that is more easily accessed and visible would be wonderful. A movie theatre, a teen center and recreation complex with an indoor pool and walking track would greatly benefit young and old in a year round capacity. These are all things we could have with the right economic development.

Areas that we need to define and target are:

  1. Identify industry targets and workforce issues to ensure local workers have the skills they will need to perform the jobs and to stay competitive.
  2. Make sure we have adequate infrastructure to support new business and determine if available property will require significant investment for infrastructure.
  3. Areas available for development need to be properly identified and publicly posted.
  4. Coordinate local financing and business assistance groups.
  5. Identify and approach landlords of vacant buildings to discuss what they are seeking for tenants and what their rental requirements are for their properties and publicly post.
  6. Identify similar communities with meaningful economic development and arrange to meet with their economic development coordinators for discussion and networking.

We can have economic development for our town, but first we must end the division that has destroyed the unity of our citizens so we can all work together to grow our town into a stronger, healthier and happier place to live where we all can thrive and prosper.

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