Building permits signal economic gains June 22, 2018 on Editorials, Opinion Have you tried to hire a plumber lately? An electrician? How about a contractor to remodel your home or replace a roof? For many folks around Hancock County, it is becoming very difficult to find, retain or schedule a qualified contractor for residential or commercial work. Ask one of the local building supply houses how business is and an exhausted face will tell you that they are very busy — busy setting sales records month after month as local construction projects are keeping every available tradesperson occupied. We should find good news in these stories; elevated levels of employment, security of income for folks looking to invest money on their properties, confidence in the overall economy, plus a willingness by baby-boomers to fulfill long-held projects, while Gen X and Y property owners are working on new dwellings or fixing up our considerable supply of older homes. Realtors are happy, too; they claim that the available housing stock for sale is low while demand is generally higher than in almost a decade, another great signal about the uptick in Hancock County’s economy. Yet, beneath the silver lining there also is some troubling news. Prices are up for most building supplies. The shortage of skilled tradespeople that creates higher wages for them means higher costs for you. And given that many skilled plumbers, electricians and carpenters are among the “baby-boomer” generation, who will do this necessary work when they retire? Too many schools have discontinued hands-on training programs. Our technical schools have yet to produce sufficient graduates to help meet the growing demand for skilled men and women prepared to make lasting (and profitable) careers working on homes, businesses and summer visitor projects. Anecdotal evidence suggests costly delays and bidding wars for skilled tradespeople are occurring in some communities — a situation that doesn’t serve middle class families on a budget. With local building permits increasing monthly, and several large scale housing projects already under way in Ellsworth, new residential starts surely will help meet a growing demand for adequate local housing. All together, there is a lot going on in Ellsworth and in towns surrounding the county seat. Economic optimism surfacing in Waldo, Knox, and Hancock counties can help grow this part of Maine beyond any previous expansions.