Our granddaughter arrived prematurely. She was born a week after her due date but before her parents could move to Maine.
Son Joshua and daughter-in-law Kelly wanted to move to Maine before they had kids. Two years ago, Josh aggressively sought a position in Maine without finding one. He works for My Brother’s Keeper in Easton, Mass., a program that serves the poor.
Josh made a commitment to this as his life’s work years ago, and we’re very proud of him. Keeper wanted to keep him, so they gave Josh a major promotion and put him in charge of opening a new location in the Fall River area. He had to make a three-year commitment to that project.
Kelly is an awesome elementary school teacher, sometimes serving a classroom where as many as one-third of the children are homeless.
Our disappointment that two such outstanding young people couldn’t find a way to work and live here in Maine is overwhelming. I know we are not alone in this disappointment. Many Maine children have had to leave the state for work.
Recently I was in the Legislature’s documents room, when lobbyist/comedian Gary Crocker whipped out his phone to read a new message from his daughter, who lives with her husband and children in California. Crocker often has complained that they are so far from Maine.
The daughter’s message informed him that her husband had gotten a promotion, and they would have to move to Australia. Crocker was distraught.
After he finished reading the message to us, however, Frank, the documents room director, said, “You know, Gary, it is April Fool’s Day!” And yes, it turned out the message was a joke. But his daughter and family are still in California, and Josh and Kelly and our new granddaughter Ada Claire are still in Massachusetts, and that is no joke.
Maine’s economy is no laughing matter, either. Last September, Forbes magazine rated Maine last in the nation for business. We’ve talked the talk, but not walked the walk required to make Maine prosperous.
Tax reform, lower energy costs, more education, encouragement and hands-on help for entrepreneurs and small businesses, faster Internet access — yes, we have heard a lot about all of this. But Sen. Richard Woodbury’s mighty effort to reform our ridiculous tax structure failed, and the Maine Law School just dropped its program that helped entrepreneurs get patents. It’s just one setback after another, and it’s been going on for decades.
All three candidates for governor have offered plans and predictions focused on the economy. And they will have to forgive me for my jaundiced response — been there, heard that.
I was more excited by a recent news story by the Press Herald’s Whit Richardson about a new Portland-area group focused on startup businesses. In June, it’ll celebrate Maine Startup and Create Week, with “panel discussions on building startup communities and encouraging women as entrepreneurs as well as promoting industries in Maine that are already strong, such as biotechnology, clean energy, specialty foods and payment technologies.”
Jennifer Hazard ought to be involved in this. Hazard is a young woman who was working for Martha Stewart in New York when she left that job to study writing in graduate school. She moved to Maine with her husband when he found a computer job in Portland. She did some freelance writing while house-sitting and looking for jobs.
Hazard was doing website copy writing for L.L. Bean when they purchased their home in Yarmouth and had a daughter. Then Hazard started her website blog, cutepotato.com, a terrific source of information for parents. You can access the blog and her other work at jenhazard.com. Hazard originally focused on promoting events and places that appeal to kids and their parents. Now the website offers all kinds of helpful information from books to restaurants.
After five years at L.L. Bean, Hazard left to begin writing for publications in and out of Maine, including Maine magazine, for which she wrote travel columns for a while.
Today, she also works part time as the social media staffer for Islandport Press in Yarmouth, where I met her. Islandport recently published my new book, “A Life Lived Outdoors.” Hazard also stars, with her family, in a new video for the Maine Tourism Commission. She had noticed that its website and advertising had nothing for young families and reached out to them to fill that gap. You can see Hazard’s video at vimeo.com/87023104.
We need more Jennifer Hazards, more economic opportunities for our children and grandchildren, a lot more action and a lot less talk.
As I looked into my precious new granddaughter’s eyes, I tried to see the future for her. I want it to be a future in Maine.