I am writing in response to an article (“Risky business: Les Otten and the rise and fall of American Skiing Co.”) written by Marian McCue and John Christie, published in the Sun Journal on March 11.
The article was both disappointing and misleading, because it was largely based on recycled information — inaccurate and incomplete newspaper stories from more than a decade ago.
The ski resort business is a tough, high-risk business. We were up front about that with everyone. It is capital intensive, seasonal, weather dependent and involves discretionary spending by the consumer. It is like farming without subsidies.
When I took over Sunday River, we had four full-time employees. From the moment I got there to the moment I left, my main goal was growing the company and creating jobs. In the beginning, I did everything that needed to be done, from welding broken equipment to cleaning the toilets to grooming the trails. My heart and soul are still in those mountains.
We put Maine on the map for winter recreational tourism. We created more than 1,200 jobs, not to mention the residual jobs from the businesses that sprouted up as Sunday River grew and the tourism economy expanded on the Route 26 corridor from Gray to the Oxford Hills.
In the process, we transformed the western Maine economy. For instance, in 1972 the tax base of Newry was $1.3 million. Because of Sunday River, today that community is valued at more than $476 million.
We grew into a national company. Times got tough. Shareholders lost money and, as the biggest shareholder, I lost the most. I stuck it out with the common shareholders because I believed we could turn things around, but the Wall Street investors wanted to break the company up when I wanted to build it up. I was committed to growing and creating jobs.
I’m proud of the business we built and the enormous investment we made in the state and I’m very proud of all the jobs we created. All those jobs are still there and they continue to drive the Maine tourism economy.
The No. 1 problem in the state of Maine right now is jobs. According to former state economist Charles Colgan, Maine will lose 30,000 jobs in this recession.
I am running for governor because I believe Maine’s future is bright and I have a detailed plan to create private-sector jobs and turn our economy around. We need to do five things to ensure Maine’s prosperity:
• Overhaul the tax system and reduce the tax burden that is driving employers out of Maine.
• Change the insurance laws so that small businesses in Maine no longer pay more than twice what their counterparts in New Hampshire pay.
• Target our rules and regulations to help Maine businesses instead of hurting them.
• Take control of our energy future. In my administration, we won’t just be talking about energy independence — we will be doing it.
• Educate and train our children so that we will be competitive in the global marketplace.
If we work together to improve these five areas, we will create the environment that will bring jobs back to Maine.
Yes, I got knocked down, but I got up and started again, just like many Mainers do.
As governor, I’ll fight to save businesses and create jobs for Maine’s people and their children, every day, and I’ll never get tired of it.
If people want a strong leader who’s been tested; someone who’s not afraid of the tough fights that lay ahead, I’d appreciate their support.
Les Otten, Republican candidate for governor of Maine