2017-11-30 / Editorial

People buzzing about Biddeford

Legislative Lowdown
by Rep. Martin Grohman

“I’ve been hearing positive buzz about Biddeford.”

That’s what people say when I introduce myself at the statehouse.

Yes, we have our challenges. There isn’t enough affordable housing, even as local representatives push at the state level to increase state school funding and the homestead exemption, and property taxes are still too high. Like many communities, we continue to struggle with the high toll of the opioid crisis on our residents and services.

But our industrial parks – with their rare combination of rail service, natural gas supply and direct I-95 access – are full and growing. They include a significant amount of manufacturing, a relative rarity in this state. We have a regional airport that continues to provide interesting opportunities, an excellent hospital and soon a county courthouse that will spur growth along the Route 1 corridor.

Real estate values are up. Our downtown restaurants are busy and popular and new ones open up seemingly weekly. The Shops at Biddeford Crossing continue to grow. Market Basket, the only one in Maine, and Five Guys, located in a new development that sold all its space before it was completed, are good examples. Vacancies don’t stay vacancies long.

We have good and growing schools. There is a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program housed within the middle school. Our Center of Technology is a leader in training for the trades. And as much as you hear about Maine getting grayer and less diverse, with an average age of 35, Biddeford is growing, getting younger and more diverse, with an influx of families from around the world.

It’s great to see our downtown looking so nice. A large group of volunteers really went above and beyond to string the holiday lights this year. If you haven’t been down to see it, you should take a look. It took a lot of borrowed ladders and volunteer hours to string that many lights by hand. The project was started by the La Kermesse team over the summer and finished with volunteers coordinated by the Heart of Biddeford. Practically every tree along Main Street and Shevenell Park is strung with hundreds of lights.

This Friday night is a particularly good time to visit Main Street and downtown. It’s the Downtown Holiday Festival and ArtWalk in one evening, with a tree lighting ceremony at City Square, and pop-up shops, galleries and studios open all evening. The Maine Makers Holiday Market will be in full swing in the upper level of the Pepperell Mill Center (next to Tulu). Just A Moment Gallery will feature local artists for a benefit show. That’s a lot of Christmas shopping you can get done in one evening. And remember to pick up your City Theater tickets for “Charlie Brown Christmas,” opening that night and playing weekends through Dec. 17.

We’re bucking a lot of trends in Biddeford, and although there is more work to do, we should all be proud. And I have it on good authority that Santa is expected for the tree lighting on Friday night at 6 p.m., so I’m going to be on my best behavior.

Rep. Martin Grohman of Biddeford is an Independent State Representative serving his second term in the Maine Legislature and is a member of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Outside the legislature, he is chair of the Biddeford Solid Waste Commission. Marty hosts a podcast for Maine entrepreneurs called The Grow Maine Show. Find it on Apple Podcasts and Google Play, and sign up for legislative updates at www.growmaine.com or facebook.com/repgrohman.

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