Last week the BDN printed an editorial opposing Question 2, the Oxford County resort casino initiative. The newspaper claimed that a resort casino is not real economic development. But it is.
The newspaper is based just across the street from Hollywood Slots. It is clear driving down Main Street that business is booming. New restaurants and shops have opened. Hundreds of people are employed and the company is paying millions in tax revenue to Bangor and the state. I’m no economist, but I know development and progress when I see it.
Maine needs more of that economic development, Oxford County in particular. Last Friday, a research firm announced that 71 percent of Maine residents are worried about the economy and unemployment in Maine. I’m one of them. Listening to the news it’s clear more jobs are leaving Maine than are moving in. Ask any of the workers left without work when Burlington Homes pulled out of Oxford, or any of the 250 people left unemployed this winter when L.L. Bean announced it would not open its Oxford call center. They know that jobs are precious commodities — one they’d love to have.
The Oxford County resort casino will generate more than 900 jobs. The Olympia Group has committed that 97 percent of those jobs will be for Mainers — that’s all but 24 — all good paying jobs with benefits. And how about the construction phase? Almost 1,300 people will be needed then. We’re talking about more than 2,000 jobs, and all we need is your Yes vote to get started.
A Yes vote means millions of dollars in new money for the state of Maine. New tax revenue, new payroll, and new goods and services purchased from local vendors. The BDN claimed that very little money from this resort will stay in Maine, and that is completely false. More than 93 percent of the revenue generated by this resort will stay in the state. That’s not after expenses or after salaries or anything. It’s a raw number — “gross” in business lingo — 93 percent. The money stays in Maine helping to fund education, student loan repayment, alternative energy research and development, affordable health care and more.
Maine cannot afford to wait another two, five, seven or more years for economic development. Maine cannot wait for jobs or new tax revenue. We need it now, and with Question 2 we have a real opportunity.
The Olympia Group has invested in the Yes on 2 campaign as a commitment to Maine. It’s not a donation, but a business investment. Take a look through this very newspaper and look at the advertisements. Every one of them represents an investment — one from which the company involved seeks a return. Political campaigns, restaurants, car dealerships: all investing in marketing to reach people. The Olympia Group’s investment in the Oxford County resort casino project is no different. It is investing in Maine, in the people of Oxford County, and a project it believes will be successful for Olympia Group and for our economy.
There is no denying some provisions in the proposal should be amended — Dean Harrold and others at Olympia have said that all along. Language that permits young people to work or gamble in the facility, or creates a moratorium on future casino development has no place in the law, and has no place in the casino. Vote Yes on Tuesday, and join us as we call on the Legislature to do its job and remove these provisions. Maine’s lawmakers are empowered to make changes to citizen initiatives for just this reason. They have made changes before, and will do it again.
No other question on Tuesday’s ballot has this much potential, creates this many jobs, or offers this kind of development for Maine. Don’t let this opportunity pass by.
Derek Mitchell is a field organizer for Vote YES on 2 for Maine.