October 23, 2017
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A realistic plan to attract jobs, businesses to the Bangor region

By Sean Faircloth, Special to the BDN
George Danby | BDN
George Danby | BDN

Chris Dalton, a former Californian, owns a software company. He could live anywhere. He chose Bangor. Our region needs more business owners like Chris. But how?

What if Bangor could benefit from an advertising campaign worth millions of dollars — a campaign leading to 450-1,000 jobs for our region? What if this advertising campaign attracted more business owners like Chris Dalton who can locate anywhere?

What if this job estimate were supported by a well-researched economic study indicating that many of these new jobs would be professional jobs?

Note that this multimillion-dollar advertising campaign would cost eastern and northern Maine nothing. Zero. Oh, another thing: This multimillion-dollar-value campaign is permanent. That’s right: free advertising — for generations.

According to a vetted economic study, these jobs, this permanent advertising campaign, would result from a national park in the Katahdin area, making ours America’s only two-national-park region for thousands of miles.

The Katahdin Chamber of Commerce support this jobs plan, as does the Katahdin Area Rotary Club.

Elizabeth Chabe founded High Touch Courses, recently named one of the world’s 20 hottest startups by CNBC. This dynamic Bangor business owner supports this jobs plan. So do other business owners such as John Dobbs, Ben and Elena Metzger, Matt Chabe and Brad Ryder.

At the Oct. 30 Bangor City Council candidate forum all were asked to name this area’s biggest problem — and a solution. I said jobs. I said a second national park could help. Significantly.

Respected economists like Charlie Colgan and David Vail find the conclusion that our region would garner 450 to 1,000 jobs credible, as does forestry expert and University of Maine professor Rob Lilieholm.

When parents in the Northeast look at a map to plan vacations, our region would be the only two-national-park option — serving the most populated region in America.

The plan for the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Park is clearly not the old Restore The North Woods plan. The modern proposal is more focused and wouldn’t impede leaseholds. Hunting and snowmobiles are accommodated in the recreational area.

Indeed, if anyone — anywhere — knows of a solidly researched economic plan that brings 450 to 1,000 jobs to our region, bring it forward so we can immediately support it.

Meanwhile, let’s support a strong plan. A second national park would automatically be advertised on websites, tourist guides, maps, airline magazines, TV and by travel agencies.

The economically challenged Katahdin region would benefit greatly. Bangor would be the only city in the entire Northeast serving as the jumping-off point for two national parks, the recognized gold standard in outdoor tourism.

When I had the idea for the Maine Discovery Museum, I wanted it for children, but I also put four years full-time into that startup because MDM would draw people to Bangor. Soon Maine Discovery Museum will welcome its millionth visitor.

A second national park would be a greater draw — exponentially so — attracting visitors, young professionals and business owners who like the outdoors and can, like Chris Dalton, locate anywhere. A two-national-park offering creates a permanent money-attracting, job-attracting brand for our region — a brand respected worldwide.

2016 is the 100th anniversary of our National Park system. My hero, Republican Teddy Roosevelt, loved our region. The only president who hiked Katahdin (adjacent to the proposed national park), Roosevelt was a leader of action. Now our region must act in our own economic interest and secure a second national park celebrating this centennial.

Our region can no longer pin its hopes on a mid-20th-century economy. This 21st-century jobs plan isn’t the only solution. It is, however, the most specific, detailed, rigorously studied solution .

Bangor City Councilor Sean Faircloth is an author, lawyer and a former majority whip in the Maine Legislature who initiated the Maine Discovery Museum.

 


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