Media Archive

Sebec need not waste opportunity to become 'model community'

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 155, No. 14, April 07, 2004
To the editor:

As employees and managers of the Sebec Village Shops for the past year and a half, we have had the privilege of working with a wonderful and diverse group of individuals. We are particularly fortunate to have the financial, business, and emotional support of our founder, Forbes Smiley.

We were rather skeptical of the operation at first. We questioned why someone would want to put a business in, what many regard as, the "middle of nowhere," but our attitudes quickly changed as we saw an incredibly unique and altruistic individual creating something from nothing. He vested us in the project from day one . . . our input really mattered !

This cafe/market/post office is housed in a building that was literally falling apart. Through the vision of our employer and countless dollars of his investment, a little oasis has been created which provides a wonderful place to eat, shop, and get your mail in a truly picturesque setting. Besides that there's a great little park across the street with a gazebo overlooking the lake. What's not to like ?

After all there have been a significant number of jobs created from this little enterprise. The ongoing renovation has employed foundation workers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, contractors, landscapers and other peripheral workers. When we opened, jobs were created in this little community for at minimum 15 workers year 'round, and more in the summer. Our boss really wanted to provide opportunities for local people. What's more is that we have a remarkable cohesive and incredible working atmosphere because our employer supports us in such a way that all of us are free to develop new ideas and watch them grow and flourish.

This would be an ideal set up except that some members of the local government and some community members have made it next to impossible to conduct business. At a time when most towns are doing everything that they can to attract new business, Sebec almost appears not to want to have this one operating at all. We should be embracing someone who is willing to invest in this village in the poorest county east of the Mississippi River. Instead, roadblocks of every sort imaginable have been erected to discourage us at every turn. Our employer has done his best to comply with every directive given.

Don't get the situation wrong. Not everyone in town has been opposed to what is happening. Some have collaborated on various activities and have embraced the infusion of new life into the community. We are attempting here at the local level to emulate what the state is doing on a statewide basis - to create an environment that will encourage people, especially young people, to remain in the area because there are opportunities, in work and at play and not just in Southern Maine.

Surrounding towns have been very supporting of our various enterprises, and patrons are frequently telling us how very appreciative they are of our presence hereand of our effort to provide an atmosphere that is like a step back in time ... an alternative to the fast pace and fast food of today - a pleasant and refreshing experience.

One might think . . . what's the catch ? Why on earth would someone invest time, money, and ideas in an area where he is not wanted when he could have easily have done this anyplace else and had a good return on his investment rather than a lot of aggravation with little financial reward? Well the answer is that we are lucky to have one of the few folks in our midst that wants to do something right "just because." He thought that central Maine would be a good place for this venture because we are in need of jobs, and a sense of community spirit.

So we have our homework to do.Instead of trying to find every reason that this situation cannot or will not work in town, we can and we must find a way to seek a middle ground and make Sebec the model for progressive community development. The bottom line question is, "Do we really want to bring business to Piscataquis County or not ?
Let's hope so. We are doing our part!

Annabelle Kelman
Jayne Leilo
Elise Templet
Irene Thomas
Melinda Wentworth
Employees of Sebec Village Shops

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.