Kennebec Valley Chamber

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Friday Report ~ February 19, 2016

"We are all in this together" - It may be too early to have a conversation about spring, but it was warm today, pitchers and catchers reported to Red Sox spring training this week and last night at 5:20 the sky was still light out. I am feeling optimistic. On top of that, it feels as though time has sped up. The best plans we make are outdated the day we make them, so I am hoping to get ahead of the curve on this topic.

                If you have read the Kennebec Journal lately you know the City of Augusta is taking steps to beautify Western Avenue. They are investing in the medians and greenery along this very visible gateway into our fair city. As a new property owner on Western Avenue, we are very excited by this initiative. I want to publicly thank the Mayor and the team at City Hall for working to improve the look of our community.

                A community is defined by so many things these days. Unemployment rates, crime rates, homelessness, empty commercial sites but most importantly it is often defined by the term “Quality of Place.” According to one website, “Quality of Place” has been defined “as the physical characteristics of a community, the way it is planned, designed, developed and maintained that affect the quality of life of people living and working in it and those visiting it both now and in the future. “

                There are several aspects to this definition that are entirely up to the local government to manage. How a community is “Planned, designed and developed” are many areas communities like Augusta all throughout Maine are working tirelessly to get a handle on. There are new planning standards, design guidelines and economic development departments putting a lot of energy into to improving our communities. If you think your local government is not doing all they can for you, I would argue that you are missing something. Visit a council meeting, sit in on a planning board session and review the piles of documents and applications that these individuals are expected to read and understand. If you still disagree, stop in sometime and let’s talk.

                If local governments are working hard, and they can plan, design and develop, why do they face challenges requiring them to have beautification projects? Sadly, there is only so much the city can do. The funds are limited and often times the scope of their influence stops at the property line of your business. People don’t want to be over regulated. I understand completely. I don’t want someone telling me that my grass it too high or that my fence needs painting. 

                You see, there’s the rub. Visitors drive through community gateways and judge the character of a community in the first 5 minutes. I have seen it happen in other towns. If your gateway happens to have run down properties and poorly maintained buildings, your entire community will be labeled as a “slum” or “dump”. The local government is unable to effect change and unless the property changes hands, progress stops.

                In the same way I am confident that the local government is working hard, I am also confident that no one really wants to run a business that is not as presentable as it could be. The real problem here, is that we simply stop looking. We are so busy working in our businesses that we stop working on our businesses. We invest our profits into equipment and staff, often letting the physical aspects slide a bit. We all suffer a bit from our own lack of attention to detail. 

                I am well aware that spring is not here yet, but we need to begin to plan for its arrival. Take a moment and pick up where the City leaves off. Plant some new greenery, put on a fresh coat of paint and buy a new awning. The “maintained” part of the “Quality of Place” definition is completely up to us. Let’s redefine Augusta, and all of our communities as well cared for and attractive. As places people want to visit, as vibrant communities with a strong sense of pride. Let’s show the rest of the state what a beautiful place the Kennebec Valley is.