Gov. Mills (right) discusses the economy with Jennifer DeChant, co-owner of Bath Sweet Shoppe on 5/16. John Terhune / The Forecaster

Gov. Janet Mills stressed the need for expanded housing options during visits to several Bath businesses Monday afternoon.

“Bath Iron Works is hiring and hiring, and people can’t afford to live nearby,” Mills said. “Everybody needs housing.”

Mills, joined by Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic, met with Bath business owners and City Manager Marc Meyers Monday. The event, which followed the governor’s trip to Brunswick to meet with sea farmers from the New Meadows River Shellfish Co-op, was part of Mills’ ongoing effort to meet with business and community leaders from across the state.

During trips to Bath Sweet Shoppe, the Grant Building and Now You’re Cooking, Mills browsed Maine-crafted cookware and candies while chatting with business owners about inflation, the rising cost of labor and housing.

Gov. Mills (center) and Senator Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic (left) examine desserts at Bath Sweet Shoppe on 5/16. John Terhune / The Forecaster

“I can only raise chocolate-covered raisins to a certain point,” said Jennifer DeChant, co-owner of Bath Sweet Shoppe and a former state representative. “It’s tough.”

DeChant, who took over the business in June 2020 with her family, said that while many customers turned to sweets during the pandemic, high prices caused by inflation and spiking labor costs have contributed to the store’s slow start in 2022.


She expressed hope that the $850 relief checks championed by the Mills administration would help bring in more business.”

“That kind of money stays local,” she said. “I think we’re an economy of scale that could possibly see a benefit of that.”

Meyers echoed that optimism in an email to the Times Record.

Grant Building Project Manager goes over construction plans for the multi-use building with Mills, Vitelli and DeChant. John Terhune / The Forecaster

“I’m thankful for the small business owners, Main Street Bath and our community,” he wrote. “We stayed committed to each other throughout the pandemic. Based on foot traffic over the past couple of weeks, we’re already seeing positive signs for an active summer for our local economy.”

Though sky-high inflation rates and a struggling stock market have sent shockwaves through the world economy, Mills argued Maine legislation, including an extension of the historic tax credit that encourages developers to build housing in sites like the Grant Building, can ease the burden on local families.

“I can’t control the worldwide economy and the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Mills said. “But we can do a little bit at the state level. We probably passed the best economic recovery package of any state in the country.”

Vitelli, who noted the importance of expanding access to broadband internet, said solving the housing shortage could help reverse troubling demographic trends toward a smaller and older Maine.

“The work is here,” she said. “The jobs are here. We have to be able to create the environment that will support that.”

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