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Kathy Gagnon

What is Economic Development?
By Kathy Gagnon
Jul 14, 2006 - 1:57:00 AM

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The third Economic Development Workshop took place Tuesday evening, and as the two before, it was not only a waste of time, but an insult to the citizens who took the time to attend.

Though the second meeting was a review of the first meetings’ findings, Councilor Nelson wasted precious time reading the same review that citizens reviewed the previous meeting even though all present had a copy in their hands that they had all read before the meeting and several times previously.

The first question asked by a citizen was, “Exactly what is the council’s definition of economic development?” No direct answer was given to this question by the councilors. Instead, the citizens were told that there is no one answer to that question because it covers so many things. Not even Councilor/MAGIC Director, Bruce McLean was able to offer a clear definition.

The citizen who asked the question then inquired where new business and jobs fit in to the plan. This too, was not specifically answered. Instead, talk turned to painting new signs to post around town and the planting of flowers. The reasoning from the councilors was that we need to beautify the town in order to create an atmosphere for economic development. Unless I am mistaken, I thought the stated purpose of funding MAGIC was to create an atmosphere for economic development. Why then, are citizens now being asked to do what MAGIC is being paid to do?

So, we were left to wonder, where does new business and job creation fit in to all of this? Wouldn’t creating actual businesses that offer jobs be a logical way to draw back those who have had to leave and others who would like to move here? With actual businesses to employ citizens and retail businesses for citizens to shop locally without a need for travel, does it not stand to reason that the beautification process would naturally follow? Usually, a thriving community inspires community spirit and pride as well as funds which can be spared for town beautification. At this time, the citizens need economic development efforts to be directed at bringing actual employment to the area. This is why I feel we need to hire a qualified economic developer for the town who will develop business and jobs to employ the citizens and offer us places to shop.

This, also, is what our town officials need to be concentrating on without distraction. This is what our town taxes should be spent on accomplishing. Town beautification is something that citizen volunteers groups can pursue. Without businesses and jobs, there will not be a town to worry about beautifying. If the town council majority is so intent on beautifying the town, maybe that’s what they should do while interested citizens work on meaningful economic development, specifically business and job development. Next, Councilor McLean displayed banners, brochures, newspaper ads and binders that MAGIC has paid for to promote the area. Still, I sat and wondered, with all this promotional material and the money it must have cost to produce it, what has any of this done to produce new business and jobs in the town. For that matter, what has any of this done to create an atmosphere of economic development in Millinocket?

I couldn’t help but think what a shame it was that all this money and attention had not been used to help make Bantam Boilers, and all the jobs it would have created for the town, happen here in Millinocket where it was designed and developed.

When Councilor McLean then spoke of the Home to Katahdin survey, again, I wondered why so much money was spent on a survey to ask questions anyone here would have answered without incurring the expense of the survey. This money could have been much better spent, for instance, helping entrepreneurs like Carla Portwine and other local people interested in developing a business in the town. When the town is in such desperate need of businesses to provide places for local people to shop and to provide jobs, why is MAGIC wasting so much money?

I understand that it takes time to rebuild a town after it has faced the devastation that ours has, but I can’t help but think of all the other towns that have also been through similar circumstances, some of them after us, and they have not only rebuilt their towns, but have grown. Why, I can’t help but wonder, is Millinocket not only failing to rebuild, but continuing to fail?

Why are the majority of buildings on the Main Street empty? Wouldn’t buildings with businesses occupying them be a big improvement in the town’s beautification rather than the vacant and unkept appearance of the empty buildings?

Why are there so many meetings with lots of talk, but never any progress? Visioning Committees, Worksphere, workshops, MAGIC, countless meetings, lists, promises and agendas. But no progress. Facilitators, speakers, representatives, organizations come and go, but no progress. The town of Medway’s website has all available land online and mapped out. They have lots of available land and opportunities for growth and development.

Millinocket, meanwhile, does not have viable land available for businesses to purchase, unless of course, you happen to be a condo or resort developer. What land is available is not suitable nor is it easily found online. Millinocket seriously needs more land for business and for residents wanting to build homes with large lots. East Millinocket also has a need for land for housing, but has, so far, not been able to obtain it either. It is bad enough we are not seeing either an atmosphere for or actual economic development here, but wouldn’t it be nice to see everyone get fair and equal opportunities to try?

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