CALAIS — A close-up view of this border community reveals a city of slow population growth, little or no economic growth, and a decline in retail sales.
But a 60-page report titled “Calais Economic Strategy” hopes to turn that around. A meeting to discuss the report and the future of Calais will be held at 6 tonight at Washington County Technical College.
Prepared by Access Strategic Knowledge, the report outlines some economic strategies for the city.
Detailing the strengths of the area, the report says there are nearly 5,200 workers in the Calais labor market. The Calais job service office has a database of between 3,800 and 4,000 job applicants who have sought work during the past five years. On average, 82 percent of those applicants had at least a high school education.
The report characterized Georgia-Pacific Corp. in Baileyville as the engine that powers the Calais-area economy.
G-P operates three facilities just 18 miles north of the city: a hardwood kraft mill that employs 600 people; a chip-n-saw mill that produces studs for the building industry and employees 80 people; and an oriented strand board mill that manufactures composite board and employs 125 people. Other major employers in the area are Calais Regional Hospital, Washington County Technical College, contractor Thomas DiCenzo Inc. and Wal-Mart, Marden’s and Ames department stores.
Other positive characteristics of the area mentioned in the report include the good quality of life, a low crime rate and proximity to the ocean. Among the area’s weaknesses are its high unemployment rate and lack of job opportunities, lack of economic diversity, low average annual income and remoteness.
The outmigration of young people, threats of layoffs and shutdowns at G-P, decreases in Canadian retail business and the loss of retail stores in the city were cited as problems the area faces.
Among perceived opportunities for economic growth are the $15 million port under construction in Eastport that is expected to open later this year, the Maritime & Northeast natural gas pipeline proposed to run through the area that would link Nova Scotia with Boston, and increased tourism.
The report recommends that city officials take steps to stimulate commercial and retail development opportunities; develop new tourism destination opportunities; seek federal and state funding to support marketing initiatives and infrastructure development; and review the commitment to a regional economic development initiative.
Other actions the report recommends include: establishment of a business assistance committee made up of community and business leaders; development of marketing information for the city; and a marketing plan that would include advertising and a plan for the future by defining areas of industrial and commercial growth.