Fast Forward Main Street Goes to Maine

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It’s a soft snow, but more than enough to block the view I expected this morning: the ridge across the valley and the White Mountains behind that. Wanted to see the snow on Mt. Washington but don’t have to look that far to see snow this morning. Yesterday was dark, rainy, and cool but we got the full view, with clouds just bumping the tops of the hills. This 2-3 inches would paralyze us back in Atlanta. Ah Spring! I asked my nephew if he knew the guy who was responsible for this and he allowed as he did and he’d be talking to Him today, as he always does.

Mexico, Maine-Welcome To Town

Mexico, Maine-Welcome To Town

I’m in Maine, down in Raymond after a most gratifying meeting with the Fast Forward Main Street Advisory Committee in Rumford. The project also includes the towns of Mexico and Dixfield (“The Only One”, their motto because, as far as can be told, there are no other Dixfields in the world.) Our Fast Forward project has come to this particular area because of the relentless reality of the new world economy, or whatever you want to call it. As consumers, the shrinking world is certainly a good thing, but as a community dependent on a mill producing pulp and paper, you might not feel so good about it. The mill has struggled for 20 years against foreign competition, declining markets, and environmental regulation, to name a few from a long list of pressures. I used to sell pulp wood to that mill, back in the day, but I think it was owned by Boise, Cascade back then. It’s changed hands 2-3 times since as owners try to find the right combination to make it work. New Page is the owner now. Everyone here is pulling for them.

All 4 Fast Forward Main Street communities share the common issue of dealing with economic stress. But the Androscoggin Valley’s struggle has been a long one, not the result of a sudden event like a hurricane or severe economic down-turn. The other areas are urban while this is rural, the combined population of the 3 towns less than 12, 000. These folks are the tough, quiet types you’d expect to find in Maine; hard working, honest, and generous. They’re also hard people, handling what comes their way, kind but slow to befriend. They want to know who you are and why you’re here and they ask some hard, direct questions. They’ve seen my kind before and they don’t want to be disappointed again. They’ve had enough of that. Just want a chance to work, take care of their families and enjoy God’s blessings.

Rumford Falls, Androscoggin River

Rumford Falls, Androscoggin River

So FF Main Street is off and running in Rumford, Mexico, and Dixfield, Maine. We’re honored to be able to work alongside our new friends. Looking forward to the hard work ahead.