WATERVILLE — Gov. Paul LePage told the crowd at a businsess expo Thursday that he was pleased with the turnout of businesses, but warned that Maine’s business climate could change for the worse if people take this election cycle for granted.

LePage addressed the crowd at the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce Business to Business Expo briefly before the event wrapped up at 6 p.m., saying he only had “one thing I wanted to relay.”

“This year is an election year and it’s an important year in the state of Maine. If you appreciate having good jobs and growing your business, you need to be really attentive to who you vote for, because right now (it) is not kind in Augusta for businesses,” LePage said.

The business expo, in its 10th year, drew 140 businesses from central Maine and about 2,000 consumers to the Harold Alfond Athletic Center Field House at Colby College. In his remarks, LePage echoed his vision for Maine that he has been discussing across the state at town hall-style meetings over the last six months, which focuses on reining in student debt, lowering energy costs and taxes, as well as reforming welfare. On Tuesday he held a meeting in Mexico, and next Wednesday he plans to be in Madison.

LePage has attended the Waterville event before, dating back to the exposition’s start when he was the mayor of Waterville. He said that while turnout was good this year, he fears that the ballot initiative for a $12-an-hour minimum wage and rising energy costs could have destructive effects on Maine’s business climate.

“I’m pleased with what I am seeing here and I hope I see the same businesses next year, because the socialists in Augusta are destroying our state,” LePage said in an interview with the Morning Sentinel before addressing the gathering.


With Madison Paper Industries announcing last week that it would close in May, marking another bad story in slurry of bad news for Maine’s paper industry, LePage said the Legislature is not addressing the issues that make it difficult for these businesses to prosper in Maine.

“In the last six months we lost two paper mills,” LePage said. “And the Legislature refuses to address the issues, which are high energy costs and overregulation.”

LePage warned against a solar bill that he said would increase electricity costs to 22 cents per kilowatt hour. He also spoke against the $12-an-hour minimum wage referendum going to voters in November. Instead, he said the Legislature needs to put in a competing measure against the referendum, saying that as written, “it’s going to destroy the small business in Maine.”

On Thursday, Democrats in the Maine House blocked an attempt to place a competing measure on the ballot. The proposal, which had Republican backing, sought putting a $10-an-hour minimum wage proposal on the ballot as well.

LePage urged those in attendance to vote in November for representatives who share his agenda for business growth.

“This state could be more than just a beautiful state. It could be a prosperous state, but in order to get there, we need all of you to do your fair share, which is to elect the right people, like-minded people that care about Maine business,” LePage said.


Business owners attending the expo expressed positive attitudes towards Maine’s current business climate, many stating that they have had the best years in terms of profitability over the last two years.

Ben Adams, store manager at McCormick Building Supply in Winslow, said the last quarter of last year was one of the biggest the company has had in recent years, and he only expects it to get better.

“From what I can tell, it’s shaping up to be one of our biggest years,” Adams said.

Similarly, the owner of Amici’s Cucina Italian restaurant in Waterville said the business has been doing great.

“It’s been excellent, really, really good. We’ve been increasing every year,” said Mary Carpinita, who started the restaurant in 2010 with her husband.

She also said the business is looking to expand to be open for lunch once Colby College begins expanding its presence in downtown. In the last year, Colby College has bought several buildings in downtown Waterville as well as property on The Concourse with the intention of building a dormitory.


“I think there is quite a buzz with everything going on with Colby, so I think people are starting to draw more to downtown. It’s been great,” Carpinita said.

LePage, who was the mayor of Waterville from 2003 until he became governor in 2011, shared Carpinita’s excitement about Colby’s downtown development.

He said Colby President David Greene is the “greatest thing that has happened to the Waterville area in a long time.”

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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