Snowstorm an economic pain for some Mainers, but not all

Jason Freeman (left) and Norm L'Heureux with the Augusta-based G&E Roofing clear snow from the roof of the Hannaford store at the Airport Mall Monday.  They said the heavy snow fall keeps them busy.
BDN photo by Gabor Degre
Jason Freeman (left) and Norm L'Heureux with the Augusta-based G&E Roofing clear snow from the roof of the Hannaford store at the Airport Mall Monday. They said the heavy snow fall keeps them busy. Buy Photo
Posted Feb. 11, 2013, at 5:46 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 11, 2013, at 6:38 p.m.

Last weekend’s storm, which dropped record amounts of snow on parts of Maine, had mixed impacts for various sectors of the economy.

Retail businesses were certainly affected Saturday, but it was likely minimal, according to Curtis Picard, executive director of the Retail Association of Maine.

“For the most part, January and February are traditionally slower times of the year, so certainly it’s not going to have as much of an economic impact as it would if [the storm had happened] in December,” Picard said.

Not all businesses, however, were willing to yield to the weather Saturday.

Cindy Plummer and her husband, Troy, woke up at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday to start clearing snow from the parking lot of their family-owned grocery store in Buxton, Plummers Shop’n Save.

After driving an hour to reach the store — quite a haul considering it is only nine miles away from their home — Cindy, her husband and other family members who help run the business spent the next eight hours plowing snow, she said. They opened at 10 a.m. with a “skeleton crew” of family members, she said.

“We can’t afford to [close],” Plummer said. “It’s a big impact to close for the day and lose a whole day of sales.”

It’s also a matter of being there for customers.

“This is basic stuff, and people expect you to be open,” she said. “And you always have people who didn’t prepare ahead.”

For those retail operations that did close on Saturday, Picard said most, particularly those that rely on Valentine’s Day sales, were probably able to recover somewhat on Sunday.

“Sunday’s good weather certainly made it a lot better,” he said. “Your florists, your candy shops, your jewelers — those types of stores I’m assuming were able to recover that business on Sunday if they weren’t open on Saturday.”

The ski industry was one sector of the business community that welcomed the storm with open arms, according to Greg Sweetser, executive director of the Ski Maine Association.

“Obviously, this is a huge, economically beneficial storm for the ski industry and all winter sports,” Sweetser said, adding that alpine skiing and snowmobiling together have more than a half-billion-dollar economic impact in the state.

One industry hurt by the storm was hotel and lodging, excluding, of course, those hotels at the base of ski mountains.

Jeanne Carpentier, regional director of sales for Emerald Hospitality, which manages five hotels in Maine, said the storm “threw off our pace a little bit.”

Her hotels in Portland, Freeport, Waterville and Presque Isle saw 30 percent of their reservations canceled in the lead-up to the storm, she said.

“Excluding the ski areas, there was definitely a loss of business [for the state’s hotels],” said Greg Dugal, executive director of the Maine Innkeepers Association. “It wasn’t a crippling loss of business, but it was, nonetheless, a loss of ancillary business that in a weekend in February you could always use.”

From the municipal point of view, it’s still too early to tell how the storm will affect budgets.

Dana Wardwell, director of Bangor’s public works department, said it would be an expensive weekend, with a 36-member crew working a 40-hour shift, all of it overtime, but that in the bigger picture, it wouldn’t have too big of an impact.

“That’s a fairly expensive weekend, but all in all it’s been pretty quiet through the month of January,” he said. “We’d only had 20 to 25 inches of snow up till then, so when you average it all out, I expect we’ll be where we’d expect to be [by the end of the season]. I’m not concerned about it at this point.”

Nicole Clegg, spokeswoman for the city of Portland, said it’s too soon to know the storm’s effect on the city’s snow removal or overall public services department budgets. She said the city will be looking into the possibility of receiving federal aid to help offset the costs.

In the short term, she said the city is focused on the storm’s impact on the city’s business community.

“We’re trying to clear the downtown district as quickly as possible,” Clegg said. “We understand there’s a big holiday later this week that a lot of businesses are looking forward to, so we’re trying to be as responsive as we can.”

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