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Augusta: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

As the capitol of Maine and seat of state government, Augusta is Maine's largest location for government employment; state government employs several thousand Augustans. Governmental activities are supported by financial institutions, law firms, and economic and governmental liaison consultants. Health care institutions in the region also account for a large share of service sector employment, especially MaineGeneral Medical Center, which employs 1,738 at its campuses in Augusta and nearby Waterville. Augusta is the site of a number of private sector employers with significant bases in the city, such as Central Maine Power Company, an electric utility that serves more than 560,000 customers throughout the state; and SCI Systems, which produces computer peripheral equipment. However, manufacturing employment in the area decreased during the late 1990s and into the 2000s. From 2000 through 2003, the state of Maine saw 11,430 layoffs at 163 manufacturing facilities; 1,139 of these layoffs were at Augusta-based companies. But there are new high-tech jobs emerging. Microdyne, a technology services company, has a technical support and helpdesk service center in Augusta. Augusta, like the rest of Maine, has fiber optic cable in many phone lines. This allows greater carrying capacity and is attractive to firms that demand easy linkage with other offices.

Augusta's central location has made it a major regional distribution center. Significant warehousing/distribution activity is evident within the commercial base of the community. Augusta is situated near several popular vacation areas, and tourism is another significant source of revenue.

In addition, Augusta has always been one of the state's retail hubs. In recent years, retail sales in the city have increased more than in the state as a whole during the same period. In 2001, consumer retail sales were $750,000 million, a 100 percent increase from 1991. Among all cities in Maine, Augusta is second only to Portland and Bangor in retail sales.

Items and goods produced: wood and paper products, computers, textiles, shoes, and meat processing

Incentive ProgramsNew and Existing Companies

Local programs

To encourage business investment in Augusta, the city offers an array of incentives, including: tax increment financing for qualified projects; loans of up to $25,000 for Augusta companies moving to another location within the city; and loans or grants of up to $400,000 to finance fixed assets, and/or up to $200,000 in gap financing for up to 40 percent of a business' development activities, for projects that benefit a percentage of low- to mid-income persons.

State programs

The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME,) assists economic development by providing capital for businesses through a wide variety of programs. FAME offers direct loans; credit enhancement through risk reduction and rate reduction programs; equity capital assistance for early-stage businesses; and cooperative programs with local agencies. Maine's Office of Business Development provides comprehensive financial, management, production, marketing, and other technical assistance to Maine businesses.

Job training programs

The Maine Quality Centers Program, coordinated by the state's technical colleges, offers customized education and training for new or expanding businesses at no cost to the businesses or to the trainees. The Capital Area Regional Vocational Center, part of the public school system, offers high school students and adults training in a variety of occupations. Special courses can be designed to meet the individual needs of employers. The Governor's Training Initiative program develops and coordinates training for companies that intend to expand or locate in Maine, reorganize to remain competitive, or upgrade worker skills.

Development Projects

In recent years considerable attention has been focused on Augusta's downtown, especially its waterfront area. A state-city partnership called the Capital Riverfront Improvement District (CRID) was established in 1999 to increase access to and use of the Kennebec River and revitalize the city's downtown. One of CRID's major current projects is the rehabilitation of the former site of Edwards Milla textile mill that closed in 1983 and then burned down in 1989as an urban park. In 2004 the state granted $330,000 for the first phase of this project; CRID is currently seeking additional funds. A $500,000 restoration of the Kennebec Arsenala former army barracks and munitions supply houseto its original 1830 look is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2005. CRID's master plan for the city's downtown, developed by the people of Augusta and supported by state and city government, envisions a revitalized recreational waterfront, paths and parks linking the area's features and amenities, and development of the urban park. Private investment has led to revitalization of downtown's business core through the rehabilitation of landmark buildings, such as Old City Hall, the historic former home of city government, now an assisted living residence for seniors.

In 2005 an expansion of the Marketplace at Augusta shopping center began that will expand its floor space from 750,000 square feet to 960,000 square feet. A new, $55 million shopping center called Augusta Crossing is slated to open in 2006, potentially creating 850 new jobs.

Economic Development Information: Office of Economic and Community Development, City Center Plaza, 16 Cony Street, Augusta, ME 04330; telephone (207)626-2336. Finance Authority of Maine (FAME), 5 Community Drive, PO Box 949, Augusta, ME 04332; telephone (207)623-3263

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Because government is the major employer in Augusta, the area has a relatively stable workforce and the unemployment rate is lower than many other areas in the state. Since a significant number of low-skilled manufacturing jobs have left the area over the last two decades, Augusta citizens have had to attain more education in order to secure jobs. The number of adults with high school diplomas continues to increase in Augusta, rising from 65.6 percent in 1980, to 74.4 percent in 1990, and then 80.4 percent in 2000; the percentage of Bachelor degree holders was 15.1 percent in 1980, then 16.3 percent in 1990, jumping to 24.4 percent in 2000.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Kennebec County, Maine labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 78,246

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 4,663

manufacturing: 3,760

trade, transportation and warehousing, and utilities: 15,818

information: 1,005

financial activities: 1,931

educational and health services: 14,329

government: 16,278

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $16.97 (statewide average)

Unemployment rate: 4.8% (2004; Kennebec County)

Largest employers Number of employees
Central Maine Power Company more than 1,000
MaineGeneral Medical Center more than 1,000
SCI Systems, Inc. 500-999
Shop 'n' Save 250-499
O'Connor GMC Buick 250-499
Pine State Vending Company 250-499
Microdyne 250-499
Augusta Mental Health Institute 250-499

Cost of Living

The price of housing in Augusta is quite reasonable, and the average house sale price is usually considerably less than the average sale price in the state of Maine as a whole.

The following is a summary of data regarding cost of living factors in the Augusta area.

2004 ACCRA Average House Price: Not reported

2004 ACCRA Cost of Living Index: Not reported

State income tax rate: a graduated income tax rate from 2.0% to 8.5% of federal adjusted gross income minus all modifications, exemptions, and deductions.

State sales tax rate: 5.0%

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: None

Property tax rate: $26.00 per $1,000 (2005)

Economic Information: Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, PO Box 676, Augusta, ME 04332-0676; telephone (207)623-4559; fax (207)626-9342. Maine Dept. of Labor, Div. of Economic Analysis and Research, 20 Union St., Augusta, ME 04330-6826; telephone (207)287-2271

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Augusta: Recreation


Augusta straddles both sides of the Kennebec River. On the west side are grouped many buildings of architectural and historical interest. The State House Complex includes the State House, Maine's capitol building; Blaine House, the governor's mansion; the Maine State Museum; and the Maine State Library. The State House, a granite structure built in 1829-1832 and enlarged in 1910-1911, is surmounted by a dome topped with a gold-plated statue of the goddess Minerva; representing Augusta, she bears a pine bough torch. Blaine House, located in the capitol complex, was built in 1833 in the Federalist style; it has since been redesigned twice and now represents the semi-Colonial style. At one time the home of James G. Blaine, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and 1884 presidential candidate, the mansion was presented to the state in 1919 to be used as the governor's residence. Tours of the State House and Blaine House can be arranged by contacting the Maine State Museum. Greek Revival enthusiasts can visit the Kennebec County Courthouse, built in 1830. Oblate House, designed by noted Maine architect John Calvin Stevens for Governor John Fremont Hill and his wife, a St. Louis native, is constructed of Maine granite and St. Louis brick; of the imposing estates built in the city during the late 1890s and early 1900s, only Oblate House still stands.

Capitol Park, stretching from the State House to the banks of the Kennebec River, offers pleasant vistas and native and exotic trees, shrubs, and ferns. Historically the park is of interest because of its Civil War associations. The park was the encampment for Maine regiments during the war; afterwards the site was conveyed to the city in trust for a Civil War monument. The park is the site of the Maine Vietnam War Veterans Memorial. On the other side of the river guided tours of Old Fort Western, a restored fort dating back to the French and Indian War, are available from mid-June to September. The fort, designated a National Historic Landmark, is the oldest surviving wooden fort in New England. Costumed interpreters on site explain events and customs of the period.

Arts and Culture

Cultural opportunities in Augusta include a variety of theatrical and musical events. Shakespearean plays are presented at the Theater at Monmouth. The Augusta Symphony performs at various local sites throughout the year.

The natural and social history of Maine is interpreted through exhibits at the Maine State Museum, located in the State House complex. Among its exhibits are "Back to Nature," which depicts environmental habitats; "Maine Bounty" which focuses on the state's natural resources and their use; "12,000 Years in Maine," which features artifacts dating from the Ice Age through the late 1800s; and "Made in Maine" which depicts several nineteenth-century industrial scenes and displays more than 1,000 Maine-made products.

Other museums in Augusta are the Fort Western Museum at the Augusta City Center, which explains the history of the fort; and the Children's Discovery Museum, which offers "hands-on" fun for children through grade five in an interactive environment where exhibits are presented in such settings as a simulated diner, grocery store, post office, film studio, and construction site.

Festivals and Holidays

The gala event of the year in the Kennebec Valley, celebrating the clean-up of the Kennebec River, is the Whatever Family Festival. Held from mid June through early July in Augusta, Gardiner, and surrounding towns, the festival features a carnival, tournaments, music, dancing, a parade, and fireworks.

The Maine way of life is celebrated each September at the Common Ground Fair at the fairgrounds in nearby Unity. Sponsored by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, the fair attracts craftspeople, farmers, and chefs from throughout the state.

Sports for the Participant

The Augusta Recreation Bureau maintains many park facilities available for use by the public, including basketball and tennis courts, ball fields, swimming pools, winter skating rinks, and boat facilities on the Kennebec River. The proximity of hundreds of miles of lakes, ponds, and hills offers recreational opportunities to campers, hikers, and fishing enthusiasts. The Pine Tree State Arboretum, set on 224 acres, provides a great view of the Kennebec Valley at its 2,400-square-foot visitors center, and offers trails through woods and fields. The Kennebec River Rail Trail is a bike trail that runs along the river from Augusta toward Gardiner.

Shopping and Dining

The Marketplace at Augusta, with about 30 stores, is the largest shopping center in the area. In 2005 an expansion of the Marketplace began that will expand its floor space from 750,000 square feet to 960,000 square feet. Other major shopping centers include Turnpike Mall, Augusta Plaza, and Shaw Plaza. A new, 400,000 square-foot shopping center called Augusta Crossing is scheduled to open in 2006, near Turnpike Mall. The city also has a substantial selection of small to medium specialty shops, particularly in the downtown area. The nearby city of Hallowell, classified a National Historical District, is a favorite destination of antique buffs.

Diners in Augusta's restaurants can choose from a variety of fresh Maine seafood, including the state's famous lobster.

Visitor Information: Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, PO Box 676, Augusta, ME 04332; telephone (207)623-4559

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Augusta: History

Native Tribes Support English, French Settlement

Thousands of years before the first English settlers arrived in the Kennebec River Valley, the region was inhabited by a tribe known as the Red Paint People, so called because their discovered graves contained a brilliant red ocher (iron oxide). Considered a highly developed people, they created implements that indicate woodworking skills, and they are known to have built small boats to explore the Kennebec Valley and beyond. The Algonquian-speaking tribes who later inhabited the region called it Cushnoc; one interpretation is that this means "the consecrated place." When the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts in the early 1600s, it was the Native Americans of Maine who kept them alive by sending gifts of food.

The Kennebec Valley was rich in furs, fish, and timber. Trade began in the area in 1628 when the Plymouth Colony of Massachusetts gained the Kennebec Patent. The first agent in command of the Cushnoc post was John Howland, who had been washed overboard during the Mayflower crossing and nearly lost. Howland shared the post with John Alden, who was immortalized in Longfellow's The Courtship of Miles Standish. Fur trading between the Natives and Pilgrims became highly profitable; for more than thirty years an amicable trading relationship existed until the increasing aggression of English settlers eager to exploit the land and its wealth forced the Natives to take the French side in the French and Indian Wars. English occupancy of the region was abandoned for almost one hundred years.

The next attempt to bring English settlers to the region began in 1754 with the erection of Fort Western on the Kennebec River. When the English defeated the French in 1759, settlers began moving into Fort Western and to an area south of the fort that became known as Hallowell. When Hallowell was incorporated as a town in 1771, Fort Western was included. A sawmill was built and lumber soon became an important source of wealth; in many instances pine boards took the place of currency. As the Hallowell area advanced more rapidly in wealth and population, rivalry developed between the two groups of settlers. The two communities divided; Hallowell retained its name and Fort Western became known as Harrington. In 1797 the two cities were united and renamed Augusta, possibly in honor of Pamela Augusta Dearborn, daughter of a prominent Revolutionary War soldier.

Economy Faces Change, Challenges

In 1828 a U.S. Arsenal was established in Augusta. Four years later the city became Maine's state capital. These events and the thriving river traffic that by 1840 saw a fleet of schooners traveling weekly between Augusta and Boston added to the city's prestige. A dam was constructed on the Kennebec River and cotton factories and sawmills grew up around it, attracting more settlers. By 1849 the population had grown to more than 8,000 and Augusta prospered.

The arrival of rail travel in 1851 caused a decline in river trade. The Civil War interrupted Augusta's development, and in 1865 fire devastated most of the city's business district. Still, the abundant natural resources contributed to continuing industrial and commercial prosperity. Augusta experienced mixed fortunes in the twentieth century; agriculture virtually disappeared in the area, and some industries declined. Government is the city's largest employer, providing four out of every ten jobs in the Augusta area. Employment in the service sector, especially health services, is also going strong. In the 1990s and into the early 2000s, the city has experienced rejuvenation of its waterfront and its business corridor.

Historical Information: Maine State Library, 64 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333; telephone (207)287-5600

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Augusta: Education and Research

Elementary and Secondary Schools

In addition to a traditional academic program, the Augusta Public School system offers a special education program, a gifted and talented program, guidance, library media, English as a Second Language, alternative programs, and a regional vocational program. In 2003, one of the city's two middle schoolsLou Buker Schoolwas closed and the city's seventh and eighth grades were consolidated at Hodgkins Middle School. (The closed school is now used for recreation programs.) Construction of a new, state-of-the-art Cony High School is underway as of 2005 and scheduled for completion by the end of 2006.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Augusta Public Schools District as of the 20022003 school year.

Total enrollment: 2,652

Number of facilities

elementary schools: 4

junior high/middle schools: 1

senior high schools: 1

other: 1 vocational/technical school

Student/teacher ratio: 10.3:1

Teacher salaries (2004-2005)

minimum: $25,000

maximum: $48,800

Funding per pupil: $10,073

Two parochial schools for students from kindergarten through 8th grade, and one small parochial academy for students from 1st through 12th grade, operate in Augusta, serving nearly 500 students.

Public Schools Information: Augusta School District, 40 Pierce Drive, Suite 3, Augusta, ME 04330; telephone (207)626-2468

Colleges and Universities

The University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) is one of the seven branches of the University of Maine system, which originated as an agricultural college in 1968 at Orono. UMA is comprised of three campuses, in Augusta, Bangor, and Lewiston-Auburn, with a total of nearly 6,000 students. Associate and baccalaureate programs are offered through UMA's colleges of arts and humanities; mathematics and professional studies; and natural and social sciences. The University of Maine at Augusta Senior College (UMASC), a self-governing and self-sustaining college located at UMA, is designed for persons age 50 and over. Mid-State College is a two-year institution offering programs in such areas as business, occupational education, and travel and tourism.


Lithgow Public Library, located at Winthrop and State streets, is a Romanesque-Renaissance structure built of Maine granite in 1895. The library houses 54,000 volumes as well as 2,000 audio items, 3,000 video items, and 105 periodical subscriptions. The Maine State Library, located in the State House complex, was designed by Charles Bulfinch. The library holds 300,000 volumes on the subjects of state and local history; special collections include the Avery Collection of photographs and paintings of Mt. Katahdin and more than 100 oral history cassettes.

Special libraries are maintained by the Maine Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, which holds 135,000 volumes; the State of Maine's Law and Legislative Reference Library, with 107,506 volumes and 480 periodical subscriptions; the University of Maine at Augusta; and Mid-State College and other area colleges.

Public Library Information: Lithgow Public Library, Winthrop Street, Augusta, ME 04330; telephone (207)626-2415

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Augusta: Introduction
Augusta: Geography and Climate
Augusta: History
Augusta: Population Profile
Augusta: Municipal Government
Augusta: Economy
Augusta: Education and Research
Augusta: Health Care
Augusta: Recreation
Augusta: Convention Facilities
Augusta: Transportation
Augusta: Communications

The City in Brief

Founded: 1629 (incorporated, 1797)

Head Official: Mayor William E. Dowling (since 1998)

City Population

1980: 21,819

1990: 21,325

2000: 18,560

2003 estimate: 18,618

Percent change, 19902000: -13.0%

U.S. rank in 1990: 1,256th (State rank: 6th)

U.S. rank in 2000: Not reported (State rank: 9th)

Metropolitan Area Population (Kennebec County)

1980: 109,889

1990: 115,904

2000: 117,114

Percent change, 19902000: 1.0%

U.S. rank in 1980: 383rd

U.S. rank in 1990: 411th

U.S. rank in 2000: 462nd

Area: 55.4 square miles (2000)

Elevation: 120 feet above sea level

Average Temperatures: January, 19.4° F; July, 70.1° F; annual average, 45° F

Average Annual Precipitation: 41.01 inches of rain; 77 inches of snow

Major Economic Sectors: Government, services, trade

Unemployment Rate: 4.8% (2004 Kennebec County)

Per Capita Income: $19,145 (1999)

2004 ACCRA Average House Price: Not reported

2004 ACCRA Cost of Living Index: Not reported

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: Not reported

Major Colleges and Universities: University of Maine at Augusta, Mid-State College

Daily Newspaper: Kennebec Journal

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Augusta: Population Profile

Metropolitan Area Residents

1980: 109,889

1990: 115,904

2000: 117,114

Percent change, 19902000: 1%

U.S. rank in 1980: 383rd

U.S. rank in 1990: 411th

U.S. rank in 2000: 462nd

City Residents:

1980: 21,819

1990: 21,325

2000: 18,560

2003 estimate: 18,618

Percent change, 19902000: -13%

U.S. rank in 1990: 1,256th (State rank: 6th)

U.S. rank in 2000: (State rank: 9th)

Density: 335.1 people per square mile (2000)

Racial and ethnic characteristics (2000)

White: 17,856

Black or African American: 93

American Indian and Alaska Native: 89

Asian: 250

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 2

Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 160

Other: 270

Percent of residents born in state: 75.7%

Age characteristics (2000)

Population under 5 years old: 928

Population 5 to 9 years old: 1,102

Population 10 to 14 years old: 1,096

Population 15 to 19 years old: 1,155

Population 20 to 24 years old: 1,142

Population 25 to 34 years old: 2,385

Population 35 to 44 years old: 2,869

Population 45 to 54 years old: 2,714

Population 55 to 59 years old: 1,054

Population 60 to 64 years old: 831

Population 65 to 74 years old: 1,607

Population 75 to 84 years old: 1,194

Population 85 years and older: 483

Median age: 40.3 years (2000)

Births (1998)

Total number: 222

Deaths (1998)

Total number: 269 (of which, 0 were infants under the age of 1 year)

Money income (1999)

Per capita income: $19,145

Median household income: $29,921

Total number of households: 8,591

Number of households with income of . . .

less than $10,000: 1,312

$10,000 to $14,999: 864

$15,000 to $24,999: 1,446

$25,000 to $34,999: 1,283

$35,000 to $49,999: 1,371

$50,000 to $74,999: 1,431

$75,000 to $99,999: 510

$100,000 to $149,999: 247

$150,000 to $199,999: 37

$200,000 or more: 90

Percent of families below poverty level: 11.4% (65.6% of which were female householder families with related children under 5 years)

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: Not reported

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Augusta: Communications

Newspapers and Magazines

The Kennebec Journal, a morning newspaper, is published daily. Maine's oldest newspaper, it was founded in 1825. Magazines published in Augusta include Maine Fish and Wildlife, Maine Motor Transport News, and Maine Trails.

Television and Radio

WCBB, a public broadcasting television station, broadcasts from Augusta. Six AM and FM radio serve Augusta listeners and offer a variety of music, including oldies, adult contemporary, pop, and contemporary country.

Media Information: Kennebec Journal, 274 Western Ave., Augusta, ME 04332; telephone (207) 623-3811

Augusta Online

Augusta Civic Center. Available

Augusta Public Schools. Available

City of Augusta. Available

Finance Authority of Maine. Available

Kennebec Journal. Available

Kennecbec Valley Chamber of Commerce. Available

Lithgow Public Library. Available

Maine Department of Labor. Available

University of Maine at Augusta. Available

Selected Bibliography

Grant, Gay M., Along the Kennebec, The Herman Bryant Collection (Arcadia:1995.)

Ulrich, Laurel, A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary (New York: Knopf, distributed by Random House, 1990)

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Augusta: Health Care

MaineGeneral Medical Center, with campuses in Augusta and nearby Waterville, is the third-largest medical center in Maine and has 317 acute care beds. Both campuses provide emergency care, medical/surgical care, maternal and child health, and inpatient and outpatient diagnostic services. In 2002 a state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization lab opened at the Augusta campus; MaineGeneral cardiologists use it to evaluate patients' heart function and identify a variety of problems. In 2004, the center announced plans to build a $30 million cancer treatment center. The center is the clinical resource for the University of Maine at Augusta Medical Laboratory Technician Program and Associate Nursing Degree Program, and the Maine-Dartmouth Family Practice Residency Program. The center is a major eye surgery facility and also specializes in coronary care. A broad range of mental health and nursing home care is available in Augusta. Also located in the city is the Augusta Mental Health Institute.

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Augusta: Geography and Climate

Augusta rises in a series of terraces and sharp inclines east and west of the bisecting Kennebec River. Summers are pleasant; though winters have a reputation for harshness, they are not actually as severe as those experienced in places of corresponding latitude. Freezing temperatures at night are common in October and November, continuing to mid-April or early May. Precipitation is well distributed throughout the year.

Area: 55.4 square miles (2000)

Elevation: 120 feet above sea level

Average Temperatures: January, 19.4° F; July, 70.1° F; annual average, 45° F

Average Annual Precipitation: 41.01 inches of rain; 77 inches of snow

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