Most of this blog is dedicated to real estate and the way of life in Downeast Maine, but it crossed my mind that it may be helpful for some researching the area to know a little more about the author and why I choose to live Downeast.
Born and Raised is something you hear often around here – some stay, some leave and those who leave usually come back. Something about this area and it’s connections really stick with people. I often get calls from folks 2 or 3 generations removed from Downeast looking to get back to their family or childhood roots. A quick drive though town will make you wonder what keeps us all here, but stay a while and you will see!
After high school I was thirsty to see what the world had to offer, so I was quick to accept a scholarship to a Boston based school. It was incredible, all of the store fronts filled with unique shops, the “T”, big concerts, professional sporting events and constant bustle. I had a blast getting to know the area and all it had to offer…but Maine would draw me home every other weekend to spend time with friends and family, I felt like I was missing out on more here than in the big city of Boston.
My first trip home on the Greyhound from South Station I traveled by myself, I sat near the back and as the bus started to fill up I had a gentleman approach me and ask if he could sit next to me…who am I to deny, he bought a ticket. About 20 minutes into our journey to Bangor, Maine, this fella looks at me and asks if it would be alright to ask me a personal question. Hesitant, I told him sure. His question was “Are you Billy Howard’s daughter?”. Nearly 400 miles and 6 hours from home…this guy knew just by looking at me what gene pool I had drawn from. To some, this may be bothersome…but to an 18 year old girl traveling on her own for the first time, it was more of a comfort to travel with someone from “home”.
After 5 months in Boston, 4 years in Central Maine and a few hard learned lessons of the “Big World”, I came home for summer vacation and despite my intentions, never went back. After 4 years of University, I barely felt qualified to submit a job application, so decided to take up a new major at our local community college. Adventure Recreation and Tourism, which focused on all of the incredible things our area has to offer us and how to give that experience to others that merely have time for a short visit. From kayaking, sailing, hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, rock climbing, atving, snowmobiling and more – I hadn’t realized growing up, that not everyone had a chance to really experience the outdoors.
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The learning experience, connections and qualifications received in just 2 years at community college far bettered me as a worker and member of the community than anything I had experienced away from “home”…furthering my decision to stay here because there really was more to offer than I had originally thought.
My two year internship was also completed right here in Washington County at Downeast Lakes Land Trust. The two summers spent between the bow and stern of the boat went far beyond researching loon habitat and nesting patterns. 46 lakes once a month for 4 months – Not only did I know most of the camp owners and guides…most of them knew me or some member of my family dating back as far as my Great Great Grandfathers. From genealogy and geography to fishing and first responder skills I could have never obtained this information anywhere else other than right here at “home”.
My intentions after graduation were to work in the wildlife biology and habitat field, but my intentions were crushed with the severe nationwide recession eliminating such jobs.
The Washington County depression of 2008 hit us with what we all feared most, the closure of our local pulp mill. After being sold by Georgia Pacific, we had lost our paper and OSB plants…we were hanging on by a thread with the pulp production. As the remaining hundreds were let go, many fled to other area mills in hopes of employment leaving the area with a brief period of emptiness.
Then, the unfathomable started happening in our area. The last of the remaining mill workers choosing to stay in the area took advantage of grant money and went back to school at our Community College and Machias University to obtain degrees in areas they had always wanted to work in but had been bound financially by their positions at the mill. We started to see more entrepreneurs come out of the woodwork…creating and building successful businesses, researching and discovering new ways to expand the area and becoming more active in the community. With 3+ ports to Canada and a strong Canadian dollar, we were, despite what many thought…”getting by”.
Despite a bleak outlook for some, I hadn’t given much thought to leaving the area around this time, in fact it only made me want to stay and contribute more.
In 2009 I jumped at the opportunity to work at Due East out of the Eastport office assisting 6 agents. This of course was only intended to be temporary until the recession ended and I could put my college degree to use. I hadn’t realized then, just how much that degree would contribute to my real estate career. It started slowly, using my knowledge of the local lakes and surrounding wilderness to help agents promote properties, providing clients with the best accommodations for the type of experience they were looking for…then it was all in with promoting our area on behalf of the company by volunteering in the community and getting brochures, ads and pamphlets to reach areas unaware of our existence.
Once I obtained some comfort in my job, I took on a little more. My father had worked for Due East for over 5 years at this time and carried nearly half of our company’s listings. His office was out of his truck, traveling up to 500 miles a day for listings, research, showings and closings, not to mention his community volunteer efforts that ranged from Machias to Princeton. It started with a complete re-haul of files, spread sheets with contact numbers, listing numbers, addresses and owners – then it was the weekly ads, taking updated or seasonal photos, experimenting with different advertising outlets, promotional products, being somewhere when he couldn’t be in two places at once and so on.
In 2012 I obtained my real estate license so that I could be of more assistance to my father. Once I had license in hand I thought a brief relocation to obtain an appraisal license would be beneficial to the area and company, but it was merely a thought when I was contacted with my first listing the day I announced my licensing.
Since my first sale, I have bought my own house, started my own family and planted my heels deeply into the Downeast dirt because there is no way that I alone could teach my children just how powerful a few good people can be by telling them stories…they need to be here to see it. A great deal of persistence and determination has been brought forth to our area within the last 8+ years and while a lot of brave souls made it on their own here without the mill, we now not only have our pulp mill up and running since 2010, but we are about to embark on the newest expansion – St.Croix Tissue! Our St.Stephen neighbors, like us, have just completed a long awaited BIG contribution to the area – The Garcelon Civic Center, which is now prompting larger companies to expand to the area.
As I enter my 4th year, I am still amazed by how incredible and supportive our community really is, not only from my business stand point but seeing others succeed with the help of our local bankers, business owners, civic groups, family and friends. It is pretty tight knit here and we all want to see each other succeed. Rather you were “born and raised” or from “away” it’s where you choose to make your “home” that brings us all together to make great things happen in here Downeast.