By Jon Ouellette
Bangor City Council Chairman Ben Sprague knows he can’t form a better future for his hometown by his lonesome. What he is familiar with, however, is which portion of the population will have the most impact on where Maine’s Queen City will be in the next six years.
If Bangor is to become what it once was – a hub of cultural, social and economic activity in its heyday – the youth movement must be on.
With a bustling college town just eight miles northeast, Sprague said the opportunity for Bangor to benefit from the energy young people can provide.
“Bangor needs to feel more like a college town,” he said. “And Orono needs to be more connected to the greater community.”
Bangor’s downtown corridor is ripe with opportunity for a college student, but has been traditionally a pain to access because of a lack of inexpensive transportation there. Sprague liked the idea of a Thursday-Saturday shuttle from Orono to the Waterfront/downtown area of Bangor as a way to help create that energetic, college atmosphere.
Sprague said that it takes more than just a healthy job market to attract people to cities like Bangor. Creating jobs are important, but according to him, “there needs to be stuff to do” as well. Cultural development and social stimulation are just as vital in terms of enhancing quality of life and the livability of a city.
In Sprague’s 38 item list of ways to “Beef up Bangor” lies many potential solutions aimed at the younger generations, most notably first-time home buyer rebates and other tax credits, supporting a possible Fine Arts Academy at Bangor High School, creating a youth summit and supporting BHS’s “Leading Back to Bangor” event.
“It’s great if people want to come to the region or the state and live and settle, but the ultimate goal is to get people to come and stay in Bangor.”
Making Bangor more attractive and accessible to youth may be the first step.