Thursday, August 26, 2010

To grow or not to grow, why is there even a question?

Maine has long been a vacation destination due to it's picturesque coastline, quaint little towns and small town feel. People love to leave the city for a week, or even a long weekend, to get away from the hustle and bustle and relax in a quiet Maine town. I mean, I understand, I get it, that's why I live here myself. I love that we aren't littered with one giant strip mall after another like many other states. All that being said, at what point do we forget about all that and welcome new business to our small towns? Is all business good business? Or are we only interested in sticking to the quaint, small town feel?

Recently a proposal to build a McDonald's on 302 in Bridgton was brought to the town. Many part-time residents with vacation homes in Bridgton, retirees settling in town and those worried about the impact of chains on local business are very much against the golden arches moving in. They worry that the small town feel will be disrupted, that there would be too much trash thrown out windows, and that people's waistlines will grow, with nothing real positive in return. People on the other side welcome the 40 jobs promised and the tax dollars that would be generated.

I ask you, where do you stand on this subject? I side on adding McDonald's to the landscape in Bridgton. I mean, I don't eat McDonald's, I could care less about the actual food aspect of it. What I do like about the idea though is the jobs it would create. Most jobs are only part time and offer no benefits you say. True, you are right, these aren't high paying jobs, but you know what, it's better than 40 people on unemployment, costing the state more money, right? It would also bring some tax revenue into the state, which is never a bad thing.

It really comes down to one thing. Do we want to continue to keep Maine small, quaint and free of chain's and strip malls? If so, at what cost? I'm 100% behind the small mom and pop stores, in fact, I prefer them. But, we can't be afraid of growth or change. We need to start to encourage businesses to come to this state, not scare them away. We wonder why young people finish high school and/or college and leave the state, but the answer is right in front of us. We continuously resist new business ventures and job creating ideas like casinos or chain stores. It's easy to blame politicians for not creating new jobs, but it's time for us to start looking in the mirror.

Remember when Hooter's wanted to open a chain in the Old Port district and the City Council nixed it because they didn't want to allow chains? I mean, forget that Hooter's average sales per location is over $2 million annually, or that there is already a Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and Subway. Or how about when Wal-Mart stirred controversy in the midcoast in 2006 as Damariscotta and Newcastle adopted size caps and Nobleboro approved a moratorium to keep the retailer out. I'm not advocating for more McDonald's, Wal-Marts or Hooters, that isn't my point. What I'm getting at is that Maine needs these jobs. We need the tax revenue. We start by adding some chains, then work on getting employers that offer better wages. Maine needs to be an enticing place for business, not the opposite. We need to keep young people in the state, not raise them here and send them off to do great things in every state but ours. I'm just saying...