I have a pet theory that I’ve shared with everyone that’s willing to listen. To me, it explains a lot about Mainer’s attitudes about business, taxes and life in general. Maybe the attitude is similar elsewhere, but I can’t be sure of that.
See, it’s a tough economy. Unemployment in Maine is not as bad right now as it is in other parts of the nation, but times are difficult. Groceries, gas, heating oil: they’re all getting more expensive. Raises are less frequent. People want the economy to perk up, especially here at home. They want people to bring money to Maine that’s going to be spread around, raising the standard of living.
At the same time, folks don’t want to be bothered with the stuff that comes with economic development. They don’t want increased traffic on the streets, new bodies at the local schools and lines at the grocery store. They’re pretty wary of newcomers and their annoying ideas about how things should done and frankly want to be left alone.
It manifests like this: Someone comes to town, saying they’re going to bring their business with them. It’s going to mean X many millions of dollars of investment and Y more jobs to the community that pay a living wage. They’re going to pay taxes and they want to be part of the community.
Most folks, I figure, yawn at the news. Sure, they say, that’s a fine idea. More power to them.
But a good-sized minority get all up in arms: it’s going to generate traffic, it’s going to bring the wrong sort of person to town, it’s going to have impacts we can’t imagine and it basically going to change our cozy little community.
I’ve seen several plans march through Maine communities, and half of them get chased away by these folks. They wind up locating their plant, or store or whatever some place else.
It’s a cousin to the “Not In My Backyard” syndrome and it’s confusing for the community, and especially the economic development folks. Mainers are picky folks: they want economic development, but not that economic development.
It’s a rather tough code to break, but I think I’ve figured it out. We want a leprechaun to wander in to the town, drop his little pot of gold and leave. We’ll divvy it up as we see fit and he can move his little green ass right out of town.
Unfortunately, there has been dearth of leprechauns sighted in these parts lately and even fewer pots of gold.