The Star-Herald

Tourism can help prevent out-migration in Aroostook

Editor’s note: The writer resubmitted this letter with a number of corrections.

To the editor:

I read with interest the article about Bob Dorsey’s report to the Caribou City Council, “Caring for the Crown.” This report was a follow up to a report called “The Tarnished Crown.” which was done several years ago to start exploring how to enhance the economy of Aroostook County. After that study a group called LEAD was formed.

LEAD eventually was folded into the organization that exists today known as APP, (Aroostook Partnership for Progress). APP was formed through the collaboration of Northern Maine Development Commission and Mr. Nic Bayne CEO of Maine Public Service. APP is a “pay to play” organization. Initially the cost was $10,000 to be part of this organization. My understanding is that fee schedule has changed. Members now pay from $150 to $25,000 per year. However, not all the stakeholders are part of APP.

One of these missing stakeholders is the tourism industry. Tourism is the largest industry in the state of Maine. Tourism brought into Maine $6,013,675,307 in 2017, and $5,989,481,329 in 2016. The 2017 numbers for Aroostook County are not available yet.

In 2016, tourists spent $157 million in Aroostook which was a 13.1 percent increase over 2015. That tourism income supported 2,784 jobs. Those 2,784 jobs produced $53,242,069 in income, and brought into the tax coffers a total of $14,755,772.

Approximately four years ago Aroostook County represented about 1 percent of the tourism industry in the state. Today it is about 3 percent. Of all the industries, tourism has the greatest opportunity to grow in Aroostook. That $6 billion that tourism represents does not belong to any tourism region. That is a pot of money that all the regions has access to. All they have to do is work for it. Aroostook has unlimited opportunity to increase tourism revenue.

I think in order to stop youth out-migration, we need to grow tourism. If tourism grows and we have summer jobs, some of our young people who go away to college would be able to come home to work for the summer. Some of the college students from away, who are in school in Aroostook, could stay here and work. If the students were to stay the summer, they would have to rent apartments for the year, not just the school year. They would buy everything they need to live locally.

In my opinion the economy of Aroostook County is like the old three legged milk stool. The economy needs to be Industry, (manufacturing-agriculture-logging and all supporting business), Retail, and Tourism, to reach its potential. Tourism has the ability to enhance Industry and Retail, making them even stronger.

Mr. Dorsey did not mention tourism as a solution to outward migration of our youth. Tourism needs a seat at the APP table so we can educate the board as to why tourism has the most potential upside to grow the economy of Aroostook County.

Steve Dobson
Aroostook Hospitality Inns

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