HERMON, Maine — Steps taken to grow the town’s business base appear to be paying off on a number of levels, town councilors learned last week during a briefing from their economic development consultant.
“The news on Hermon has been very, very good. And whenever there’s good news, I like to share it with the council and share it with the community,” Ron Harriman said last Thursday night in an update for elected officials.
The gist of the update is that Hermon no longer is the sleepy little bedroom community that many see it as.
“Hermon just stands head and shoulders above any other community in the area in a lot of ways,” Harriman said during a meeting of the Town Council. The briefing came after the councilors approved a cost-sharing agreement with the owner of Pinewood Business Park expected to result in seven new developable lots.
The first piece of evidence that Harriman provided to that end was a Bangor Area Market Overview prepared last month by regional expert Bev Uhlenhake of Epstein Commercial Development.
Uhlenhake’s overview , which is based on data from tax records, building permits and other documents, showed that at 1,157,851 square feet, Hermon has more industrial inventory than nearby Brewer, which has 1,142,061 square feet, and Hampden, which has 773,530 square feet of industrial space.
“So you see our industrial inventory is even higher than Brewer’s so Hermon is a real player,” Harriman said. “In the past 10 years, our industrial growth is up 200,000 square feet,” he said, noting that Hampden’s increase over the same period came in at 75,000, while Brewer remained flat and Bangor lost 125,000 square feet.
“I think that speaks volumes,” he said.
Harriman also said that 2010 census figures that recently become available “indicate that Hermon is the place that residents want to be.”
Over the last decade, he said, Hermon’s population grew 22.1 percent, outpacing Bangor’s 5 percent increase and Brewer’s 5.5 percent increase. Old Town, meanwhile, saw a 3.6 percent drop in population, he said.
“Again, there isn’t any other community in this area that even comes close,” Harriman said.
Also boding well for Hermon is its relatively low property tax rate, Harriman said.
After adjustments for factors that include homestead exemptions and tax-increment financing districts, Hermon’s 2010 tax rate of $11.31 is significantly lower than its Greater Bangor counterparts, according to a comparison by Maine Revenue Services.
The comparison shows that Bangors’ equalized tax rate was $18.92, Brewer’s was $17.78, Hampden’s was $15.22, Old Town’s was $18.25 and Orono’s was $20.28.
“I know that any tax bill is too much tax bill but Hermon’s tax bill is very, very good relative to anyplace else” in the area, Harriman said.
Asked what he thought were factors in the town’s growth spike, Harriman had this to say:
“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. It’s definitely a team effort within the community. It’s making good fiscal decisions and its taking some initiatives like we’ve done to attract commercial growth.
“We want new residents but it’s really commercial growth that’s the real gravy. [Commercial growth] is not putting kids in the school system and it’s really helping to offset your tax bill,” he said.
“So when the community steps up to the plate and extends water and sewer out the Odlin Road or Route 2, or works with park owners to encourage development of new lots, things like that send the right message and businesses see this as the place to be,” he said.
A result of those and similar investments has been jobs, Harriman said. A list he compiled for town officials showed 27 actual and planned business startups and expansions over the last two years or so. The number of jobs created by projects ranged from two to 40.
If all of the projects come to fruition, Hermon can expect to see 191 new jobs, Harriman said, adding, “By any measure that’s a very, very big number.”