PARIS – The question was simple.

“Why can’t we be No. 1?” Maine entrepreneur Les Otten asked a large group of manufactured home business owners Thursday at the kickoff for this weekend’s 7th annual manufactured home show.

Speaking at KBS Building Systems in Paris, the Greenwood resident said Maine needs to take a prominent place again in the country. He used the words of former Red Sox pitcher Curt Shilling, who asked after winning the the 2004 World Series, “‘Why not us?'”

Otten challenged the group to have a winning attitude.

Wearing his 2004 Red Sox World Series ring, the former Red Sox minority partner and vice president said of the team’s win, “We had an attitude change. It was never giving up.”

At the turn of the century, Maine used to be No. 1 in a number of areas, including steel ship building, paper production, commercial fishing, and lumber production, he said.

“Back then, we believed we were No. 1,” he said. Today, Maine is No. 1 in the country in the amount of money it sends out of state, he said. “We’re watching the rest of the world go by.”

“Thank God your group is still here,” he told the home builders.

Otten challenged the group to become No. 1 again and to change the attitudes of others across the country who think often of Mainers as the stereotypical codger sitting on the front porch of the general store who, when asked how to get somewhere, replies in a thick Maine accent “‘You can’t get there from here.'”

“Hang on to building great homes. I think we can make it infectious,” he said.

Last year, Otten started Maine Energy Systems, a company involved in sales and distribution of wood pellets and wood-pellet boilers.

Christopher Pinkham, executive director of the Maine Association of Community Banks, said, “There is money in Maine banks available.” And interest rates for homebuyers are at an all-time low, he said.

Bob LeClaire, executive director of the manufacturing housing board, said more than 150 manufactured home businesses were lost in Maine last year, and most went under because they did not have financial backing. “They had no money in the bank to operate,” he said.

LeClaire said Maine can not do without affordable housing, and manufactured housing provides that, along with high-end housing.

Officials expect thousands of people to see the latest designs and deals at area plants this weekend.

The show begins Friday and runs through Sunday, with more than 50 display homes open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. along Route 26 in Paris and Oxford, and on Route 121 in Mechanic Falls.


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