A handful of Raymond residents is creating a new committee and looking for volunteers to help guide the town’s growth, especially along the Route 302 business corridor.

The recession has left its mark on many Lakes Region communities, with Raymond seeing several vacancies and businesses change hands along its mile-long commercial district.

“I fear the tax base is starting to disappear,” said Wayne Holmquist, organizer of the new Raymond Revitalization Committee. “The image of Raymond has dropped somewhat as the result of the shopping center losing major tenants. If we can get the people behind us and get this committee rolling, I think we can choose a motif to go after.”

The idea for the committee came out of the last Board of Selectmen’s meeting Jan. 11. A statement from the committee on the town’s website says “particular consideration might be to choose a town growth identity geared toward ecotourism, eco-nature, arts/crafts, retirees, youth actions, tapping the digital growth world, including eBay, education or other areas where the town might have a competitive advantage.”

As success stories, Holmquist points to the Good Life Market, The Mosquito and even Blacksmith’s Winery just over the line in Casco that enrich the town’s character and give it some distinction.

“There are a few boutique-type businesses that are surviving well,” he said. “I believe that’s an advantage – perhaps we can pursue that type of a market.” Holmquist says the town’s seasonal nature is not a challenge, but one of its strengths.

Many storefronts here remain empty or a business might fail within a year; some businesses are for sale. The biggest commercial property in Raymond, the old Microwave Technologies building, long vacant, appears to be under contract. Word is that an area marina has eyed it for boat storage.

Despite the recession, Holmquist realizes that Raymond has a lot going for it. Route 302, one of the busiest highways in the state, brings scores of people through the area, especially during summer. Figuring out how to capture them is the challenge. The committee also recognizes there are many home-based businesses in town, a segment they hope will join the revitalization effort.

The committee is independent of town government, but the town has agreed to lend advice and meeting space as required. Selectmen Sam Gifford has joined and will work as the committee’s town liaison. So far the only other members are Ingo Hartig and Frank and Betty McDermott.

“I think the arts and crafts image would be very good for us,” Gifford said.

Hartig, a real-estate agent and 30-year Raymond resident, decided to get involved because guiding the town at this critical time would be a satisfying experience. “I’m able to offer my experience and help out,” he said.

One of the first orders of business will likely be a survey mailed to area residents asking about their habits and what kind of businesses they’d liked to see in town. Holmquist said some sort of a business association would also be beneficial.

“Something that’s more social,” he said. “Once business folks get to know their neighbor and what they’re all about, people like to spend money locally. Because Raymond doesn’t have a downtown that’s walkable and easy to meet people, and we don’t have a high school serving as a kind of melting pot where parents meet each other, Raymond is a hard place for people to meet one another. The more we can meld all the opportunities the better off we’re going to be.”

If you’d like to get involved, contact Holmquist at [email protected] or 655-7672.

 

Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at: [email protected]