Some years back, I became involved in an effort to open a community preschool in my town. It was way too late to benefit my kids directly — they were in middle and high school at the time — but I thought it could do a world of good for other families. Especially since it would be sited right in the center of town making access much easier for locals than the preschool my kids attended, which required a 25-minute drive.
I was impressed with the quality of the teachers we recruited — several with master's degrees in education — yet willing to work for peanuts because they so fiercely believed in early childhood education. Now, nearly 10 years later, the school still operates and its success has led to decent salaries for the teaching staff.
Its most significant impact, however, can be measured by the preparedness of the school's graduates. After two years of preschool, the first class of kids who entered kindergarten already knew how to count, knew the alphabet, recognized colors and were eager to learn more. They also came equipped with the necessary socialization skills to engage with their schoolmates and within a classroom structure. The elementary school teachers were amazed; the jump start those kids got helped them succeed in school and fostered an appreciation for learning that we all hoped would serve them throughout their lives.
I'm guessing they will eventually be happy, productive members of society. I think that's also the desired outcome expressed by the eight CEOs who compose the Maine Early Learning Investment Group, the focus of Senior Writer Randy Billing's cover story, "Making model citizens." The story examines initiatives to make early childhood education a priority, a goal embodied by MELIG as an economic development goal. It will get you thinking.
Also in this issue is an introduction to an architect whose development projects in downtown Biddeford have brought new uses to old spaces. Contributing Writer Derek Rice speaks with Caleb Johnson about his unique approach to development in "Designing a future," starting on the cover and part of our focus on real estate, construction and design.
We also explore activity within some of Maine's commercial real estate sectors in "Slow going," on page 18. Presenters at the annual Maine Real Estate and Development Association forecasting conference share insights about Maine's retail, office space and hospitality sectors in the story and in accompanying video interviews you can find at mainebiz.biz/mereda.
Speaking of the MEREDA conference, we enjoyed asking attendees to share on camera their observations about activity in Maine's real estate and development markets. If you missed the video musings of Joe Malone, Michael O'Reilly, Kevin French, Owens McCullough, Tanya Pereira, Matt Cardente, Drew Sigfridson, James Richard and Bill Nason go to mainebiz.biz/meredainsiders. Their observations might surprise you.