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Enough is Enough: A neighborhood on the rise; Lewiston needs skilled workers

By Robert E. Macdonald

Mayor of Lewiston

Over the past five-plus years, Lewiston has seen a moderate growth in business and housing. Lisbon, Lincoln and Main Streets are again becoming the heart and soul of our city.

A variety of restaurants and eateries downtown are creating a cosmopolitan atmosphere in the area. We have large, small and Mom-and-Pop type businesses springing up throughout the downtown, providing much-needed services and local employment for our residents. Blight has been replaced by new business facades, Argo Marketing, a building soon to rise like a phoenix filling in a 15-plus year hole on Lisbon Street and the recreation of Bates Mill No. 5.

We have also built a scenic Riverwalk. We have nature trails throughout the city. Simard Payne Park has been turned into a place where joggers and those on a lunch break can be found. It is a place to take leisure walks or sit and clear your head. It provides a venue for the Balloon Festival, concerts and other area events.

One area that has been transformed into a desirable place to raise a young family is the neighborhood that encompassed the former Pettingill Elementary School. Here the city has formed a partnership with the neighbors, creating what is slowly developing into a beautiful Class A park.

The park is not only used as a playground for the local children, but also a venue that provides for neighborhood concerts and the Lewiston Police Department movie night. It also serves as a magnet for area parents to socialize and, most importantly, get to know their neighbors.

Lastly, and most importantly, it allows us to recycle the neighborhood. The Geiger Elementary School has replaced the beloved Pettingill School. This, along with the new park, provides a selling point for the older families in the area who now find their homes overwhelming. Their need to downsize offers young families the opportunity to reside in a well-established neighborhood.

But Lewiston, we have a big problem.

Over the past year I have participated in many business ribbon cuttings, the latest being the L.L. Bean Manufacturing Plant on Lexington Street. One complaint that comes up over and over is the lack of a work force with skill sets needed to fill these jobs.

A majority of the skill sets needed can be obtained at Lewiston High School’s extraordinary technical school. In order to hone these skills, a variety of hands-on courses are offered at a reasonable cost at Central Maine Community College. The cost of these courses pale when compared to what it would cost you for a state college degree—never mind the exorbitant expense of some costly, over-rated private college or university. In addition, costs related to these technical courses may end up being paid for by the Veterans Administration or an employer.

The bottom line is that these skills are not going to bury you with a large debt as you start out on your life’s journey. The salary you earn will allow you to start a family and live the American Dream.

This is a major problem that will have to be solved if we want to continue to grow as a city. As for those who see this as an opening to advocate for non- skilled, non-English speaking individuals, forget about it. We have an immediate need for English-speaking individuals with skills. We don’t have the luxury of time to teach them a new language and train them. We need people with these skills right now.

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