SANFORD – How’s business?
That’s the question Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage posed to a handful of shop owners, clerks and other employees during his hour-long tour of downtown Sanford on Thursday.
“Not good,” said Christine Bougie, owner of Fabulous Formals on Main Street. “I’m down to a skeleton crew. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be here, I’ve contemplated closing, to be honest with you.”
Bougie, who has owned her formal wear shop for five years, said she now has four employees, down from eight.
Bougie said that having more professional people shopping in the area would improve business.
“We need doctors, lawyers and accountants,” she said. “People working at Walmart can’t shop here.”
Maura Herlihy, a Republican who is running for the seat in House District 143, which represents part of Sanford, is president of Sanford Downtown Legacy’s board of directors.
She told LePage that Sanford has been working to improve its downtown, similar to the revitalization in Waterville, where LePage is mayor.
She accompanied LePage and Senate Assistant Minority Leader Jon Courtney, R-Springvale, on the walk, billed by the LePage campaign as part of his “People Before Politics.”
At Garnsey Brothers Insurance, LePage said Waterville helped encourage outside investment by better managing its tax increment financing system.
“Over the last couple of years we’ve built our TIF fund, so now we’ve opened up a program where we can have some seed money up to $50,000 for startups in our downtown,” he said. “It’s a low-interest loan, but if they have their business plan and they are successful in their business plan, we convert it to a grant, so they can use it as working capital.”
LePage said patience was key in getting Waterville where it is.
For Pat Seavey, owner of Innovative Payment Solutions, LePage represents the change that government needs.
“It’s about time we got people in there for the people,” she said. “We need to get back to taking care of Maine small businesses.”
Seavey said the people in elective office now “are leaving us behind” and she’s attracted to LePage because she feels he’s an honest person.
“He’s been there, he’s been in the trenches,” she said. “A lot of politicians will say what you want to hear. I’d rather have someone who says how he feels.”
Susan and Ed Karytko of Kennebunk heard that LePage was scheduled to be in Sanford and made the trip to shake his hand.
“He’s a down-to-earth person with good ideas,” said Susan Karytko. “Our state really needs a change. It’s about time we tried something different.”
MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: email@example.com