The economy is weak, and people are generally in a sour mood. In fact, there’s even a national index — the Gallop Healthways Well-Being Index — that quantifies it. It hit an all-time low late last year for reasons we know all too well.

The Twin Cities have not been immune to the blues. Adding to the economic gloom, Lewiston-Auburn has been through some noteworthy trials recently. An inferno gutted one of our historic mills, the day after Lewiston’s city administrator was abruptly terminated. Additionally, we’ve heard or read about personality conflicts among elected officials in both Lewiston and Auburn, and the commission on joint services has had difficulty gaining ground and consensus after several years of effort.

Collectively, we’re understandably grumpy about all this turmoil. If it were measured, L-A’s Well-Being Index would likely be at a low point.
Much like this summer’s weather, though, it’s easy to forget that above the clouds, the sun still shines. Overall, L-A is full of good and well-meaning people, quality leaders, and sound companies working to make a difference here. There’s much about which to be proud and inspired.

In spite of a crippling national recession, L-A has benefited from some recent positive developments that would be impressive in any economy. TD Banknorth is creating a new customer service center and 300 new jobs at the Auburn Mall. Kellogg’s recently opened a 60,000 square-foot facility in the new Auburn Industrial Park. ACS announced it will hire an additional 130 people at its Lewiston center. Lufthansa has hired two dozen technicians to work on a two-year project to refurbish a historic Lockheed aircraft, to be completed in a new 30,000-square-foot hangar at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport.

There is plenty of additional good news. Both hospitals are renovating their emergency rooms and labs at a combined investment of $60 million. The Veterans Administration will site a new multi-million-dollar outpatient clinic in the Twin Cities over the next two years. Quality restaurants continue to open — most recently The Falls and Mother India — or re-open, as is the case of the much-anticipated rebirth of The Village Inn.

And just last week, the Androscoggin Bank Coliseé was selected as the site of the 2010 Maine Democratic Party Convention, the first time in 25 years the gathering will be held in L-A. An estimated $1 million-plus will flow into our economy, and we’ll have the opportunity to show 1,500 visitors how much we have changed and grown since the last visit.

On a more personal note, our company, which has had its share of economic challenges, just shipped (with the help of Outsource Works) the first wave of a new product collection for a major retailer. Being promoted as 100 percent USA Made, if these agendas and journals sell as they hope, we will invest in new equipment and add dozens of new manufacturing jobs here in town.

Our family is particularly proud that a new elementary school will open this September bearing the name Raymond A. Geiger. While my father would have loved the honor, he would also quickly refer back to our company’s arrival here from Newark, N.J. in 1955 — and our survival as a business. We came to Lewiston because the citizens united to give our firm a chance to get restarted, and we prospered because of the great people who have worked for us ever since. He loved this place — and the wonderful values and work ethic of it citizens.

If you think my message is that all is well in L-A, don’t be mistaken. Our community needs to put recent controversies and noise behind us and get back to the hard work of finding solutions to our challenges. However, it’s important to remember that L-A has faced adversity before and emerged triumphant.

Remember the U.S. Postal Service Distribution Center site selection process? Postal officials had announced Lewiston was the site choice, only to reverse course after succumbing to political pressure. A while later, Wal-Mart placed a 1-million-square-foot distribution center at the former postal site. Now we are seen as Maine’s new distribution and logistics hub.

If there’s one thing the Geiger family has learned over the years, it’s how resilient the people of Lewiston-Auburn are. We overcome adversity because when push comes to shove, we unite as a community and do what needs to be done.

We’ve done it before, and we can do it again. Let’s give our L-A Well-Being Index a makeover, and let’s take our considerable strengths and build on them.

Gene Geiger is chief executive officer of Geiger Inc. in Lewiston.

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