Vacationers heading into the state have been greeted by the “Welcome to Maine” sign in Kittery all summer, which also informs them that the state offers life the way “it should be.”
Now they’ll know that Maine’s “Open for Business,” too.
A group of businessmen pitched in to buy a new “open” sign to fix underneath the “welcome” sign after a previous sign was stolen in late May.
After the first sign was stolen, a gravel pit owner talked to Ted Johnston, a consultant who does lobbying work for the Maine Aggregate Association, about buying a replacement.
The construction industry has been hit hard by the recession, said Johnston, with about 12,000 workers unemployed in Maine. The group’s members decided to pitch in to buy a sign. Some gave $50, some gave a few hundred, he said.
“No one gave much, because no one had much,” he said, adding that he didn’t have a total price tag on the sign, which was made by White Sign in Stillwater.
Maine Department of Transportation workers put the new sign up in the last few days when they had other work to do in that area, Johnston said. Johnston said the group’s members had a simple reason for donating the sign: They want to stress the importance of jobs.
“This has nothing to do with partisan politics. This has a lot to do with the fact that people need to be working,” said Johnston. “We think the sign, ‘open for business,’ symbolizes the need for us to create jobs, symbolizes how important it is to have jobs and recognizes the hard work done by the governor and the Legislature.”
The new sign is somewhat smaller than the original sign, which Gov. Paul LePage had himself ceremonially placed on Interstate 95.
The original sign was presented to LePage on the night of his inauguration as a gift from supporters inspired by his campaign pledge to erect an “Open for Business” sign on I-95 if elected to the Blaine House. The supporters raised about $1,300 to purchase the sign.
State police have been investigating the original sign’s disappearance. Whoever illegally removed the sign could face felony theft charges — punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine — because it is valued at more than $1,000.
After the theft, a tongue-in-cheek advertisement appeared briefly on Craiglist offering a “right-wing political sign” for $1,000. The ad said the seller would trade for a “multi-panel mural depicting the labor movement,” a reference to a mural LePage removed from the state Labor Department.