My daughter is an eighth-grader at the Waterville Junior High School. These days I find myself, like many other parents in Waterville, wondering exactly what opportunities will be available for her and her peers in the area in 10 years. She may go away to college and not return to Waterville to work or raise a family, or she might return. She and her peers may also choose to stay and decide to go to college locally or enter the workforce.

Regardless, the city will need jobs and opportunities for them. A generation ago you could graduate from high school, get a good-paying job at the mill and raise a family. But those days are over and they’re not coming back. Waterville, like many communities in Maine, has watched over the last 30 years as young people have left for better paying jobs and better opportunities elsewhere. Maine became the oldest state in the nation and we need to turn that around.

How to bring jobs to Waterville

Companies expand and relocate every day. It makes sense to me that Waterville can work with all its resources — our two colleges, our two hospitals, our active business community, our vibrant artistic community, and engaged citizens — to create a well-designed and thoughtful video package and presentation materials to promote all the best Waterville has to offer, from our natural resources to our ideal location to our strength of community and strength of character. We have what employers want. We have people who are educated, dedicated, hard-working, practical, devoted, and creative.

A solid presentation may not land every company we approach, but if that presentation, even if given 200 times, lands one company that decides to relocate or expand to Waterville and brings a couple hundred jobs with it, it is worth every minute of time that it took to create and present it.

Going after the right companies is the key. Over the last 70 years, the service sector of the national economy has grown more than any other. It includes industries like finance, information, technology, health care, consulting, insurance, and real estate. These industries own a growing percentage of the overall economy and only continue to trend up — and they pay well.

Incentivizing the next generation of taxpayers

We need jobs, but we also need the people who are prepared to do those jobs. Getting young people to become residents of the city and property owners is how we will expand the tax base. Just bringing companies into the city doesn’t necessarily mean people they employ will live here. We need to make that option attractive. One way to do that is by working with both new and existing businesses to develop ideas such as a loan forgiveness program where a business offers employees a set amount of money as a monthly benefit towards student loan debt. Waterville could offer a matching contribution up to a certain amount so the benefit can be maximized, but make it conditional upon the employee living within the city limits. Such a plan could be extended for a period of four or five years so that the cost is spread out.

Good for the employee, local economy

The benefits of a program like this are twofold. First, it frees up cash for the employee, who can then become more engaged in the local economy. If they are living and working in the city and have cash in their pockets, they will have money available to shop locally, dine locally and spend locally. This engagement benefits the rest of the local economy (to include shop owners, small businesses, restaurants, and car dealerships). Additionally, by extending the program for a period of four or five years, it increases the likelihood that the employee will purchase a home in the community, thereby drawing in the next generation of taxpayers.

Voting for vision and leadership

Ideas need to be nurtured and even the best plans need adjustment. As both a paramedic and a nurse, every day of my career I evaluated situations, assessed problems, made a plan to address the problem and then implemented it. I’ve lead teams in EMS, been a supervisor in the hospital, and helped create new programs from the ground up. I understand the power of teamwork, and I am willing to work with all people who wish to be involved, regardless of our differences, to accomplish goals that benefit everyone in our city.

John Levesque is a candidate for mayor of Waterville.

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