HOULTON — Gov. Angus King, speaking Wednesday night to 150 people at the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce business and dinner meeting, offered his help to the town in the area of economic development.
Urging people to call him whenever they need help with business projects, King said, “I want to do everything I can do to help. But I can’t help unless you ask.”
King told the group that Maine has three things that make it attractive to businesses: an abundance of natural resources, a good quality of life and extraordinary people.
“We have what the country wants in the 21st century,” he said. “We are in the right place at the right time.”
King was in western Aroostook County on a business tour that included the Porter seed potato operation in Masardis, the Loon Country bottled water facility, the J.P. Levesque & Sons lumber mill in Ashland and the Katahdin Forest Products manufacturing operation in Oakfield.
The governor noted that while the southern part of the state has experienced most of the economic growth in the past, that trend is starting to spread northward. He referred to business expansions in the Greater Bangor area and MBNA in Belfast and other communities, including Presque Isle.
“The economy is going to come,” he said. “Attitude is what makes the difference; enthusiasm and support for each other.”
King said one of his primary efforts is to ensure that economic development spreads more evenly throughout the state to create more jobs.
“What can we do to provide the incentive so that your kids don’t have to leave Houlton to find a good job?” he asked. “I don’t want kids to have to leave Maine to find a good job. That’s my fundamental goal.”
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the chamber honored its citizen of the year. This year the award was given posthumously to John T. Fitzpatrick, the former manager of the local Smith & Wesson Corp. plant who died last January from injuries suffered in a fall.
Fitzpatrick, whose involvement with Smith & Wesson dated to 1967, has been credited with working almost single-handedly to make sure the company stayed in town and expanded there a few years ago. He also was active on several local boards, including Bangor Savings Bank, the Southern Aroostook Vocational School board, the Houlton Regional Development Corp., the Houlton Regional Hospital board of trustees and the Houlton Lodge of Elks.
The award was presented by King to Fitzpatrick’s widow, June, who said her husband was “proud to be a member of the business community of this town. We’re proud and we thank you.”
In other more routine matters, chamber officers and board members were elected for 1998.
Otis Smith, director of the SAD 29 adult education program, was re-elected president. Barbara Bossie of Houlton Regional Hospital was elected first vice president; Walter Goodrich, owner of Goodrich Jewelry, was elected second vice president; and Andy Grass of First Citizens Bank was elected treasurer.
New board members elected to three-year terms were Linda Russell, People’s Heritage Bank; Kathy Stubbs, Louisiana-Pacific Corp.; Linda Weston, Weston’s Mobil; and Tony Bowers, Bowers Funeral Home.
Also Wednesday night, 26 businesses were honored for being new in the community, having new owners or for expanding.