BUCKSPORT, Maine — Bucksport’s official slogan is “Rich in heritage, looking to the future,” but a different claim to fame will be embedded on the town’s Waterfront Walkway this spring:
“Bucksport: Center of the Known Universe.”
The phrase was born in an economic development meeting last year, said Bucksport Economic Development Director David Milan.
During a brainstorming session, he and a committee began playing with the idea of promoting Bucksport’s proximity to other notable Maine communities. The town is about 18 miles each from Ellsworth, Bangor, Belfast, Blue Hill and Castine. It’s about 35 miles either way to Camden or Bar Harbor.
“We used to refer to our distance to Ellsworth, Bangor and Belfast as ‘The Golden Triangle,’” Milan said Friday. Don Houghton, owner of The Enterprise, a weekly newspaper in Bucksport, was in the meeting as well, Milan said.
“Don just sort of jokingly said, ‘Hell, we’re at the center of the known universe!’” Milan recalled. “And that’s where it was born.”
The phrase will appear at the center of a compass rose more than 10 feet in diameter that will be laid into a brickwork plaza at the western end of the town’s waterfront walkway, said Town Manager Michael Brennan. Around the compass will be granite benches, flower planters, and informational signs describing the view of the Penobscot River and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge.
The compass rose plaza is part of a larger, $150,000 effort to add features to the walkway and fund the restoration of building facades in downtown Bucksport. The money for those improvements comes from a Community Development Block Grant the town was awarded last year.
While the “center of the known universe” moniker is decidedly tongue-in-cheek, Milan said Bucksport’s geographic location is a real draw for companies looking for a large labor market. Milan said he estimates that the town can access about 105,000 workers within a 25-mile radius — that’s about as far the average worker is willing to commute.
“Because we’re only 18 miles from each of these areas, we can use their labor market, but they can’t necessarily use each other’s,” he said. “There’s no labor market north of Portland that offers, within 25 miles, that large of a labor pool.”
Bill Cohen, spokesman for the Verso paper mill in Bucksport, said the mill’s experience follows Milan’s estimates. The mill, with 580 employees, is the second largest employer in Hancock County, after the Jackson Laboratory.
“About 48 percent of our employees come from the towns in the regional school unit,” Cohen said. That’s Bucksport, Orland, Verona Island and Prospect. “It’s anecdotal, but yes, I’d say a large majority of our workers come from that 25-mile radius.”
Figuring the location of the actual universal center is a bit dicey, but if NASA’s current understanding of universal geography — that the universe is flat and infinitely expanding — is correct, then there is no “center.” So, cosmically speaking, Bucksport’s claim to the title may be as valid (or invalid) as any other.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.