A friend of mine recently announced she and her husband are selling their 28-acre organic farm and moving into a townhouse condo.
She could have said she recently had tea with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton and I would not have been more surprised. This farm has been the epicenter of their lives and the idea that they are both ready to trade it in for a cozy, simple abode in a bustling college town astonished me.
But the more I thought of it, the more I saw the appeal. A recent empty-nester myself, I often wonder why the heck I bother cleaning a four-bedroom Cape when there are only two occupants. Clearly my friends saw the amount of work involved in operating an organic farm (they have full-time jobs as well), considered the hours in a day and decided to embrace a simpler, more manageable lifestyle.
That same preference is helping drive a trend toward smaller homes, as Contributing Writer Bob Mentzinger points out in "Simple metrics," starting on page 24 and part of this issue's focus on real estate, construction and design. McMansions are out and more energy-efficient and affordable homes are in, at least for a growing population of Maine's middle class.
We also pick the brain of Kevin Hancock, CEO of Hancock Lumber, which has seen its sales of Eastern white pine go through the roof recently, especially in exports to China. Exports of the familiar tree now accounts for 25% of this 164-year-old company's sales. Check out why, in Staff Writer Matt Dodge's story, "Pining for new markets," on page 30.
Rounding out the focus section, we have commentaries from experts who see reasons for optimism in construction sectors and a growing use of appraisal review. And regular columnist Justin Lamontagne offers some sage advice on assessing environmental risk in commercial properties, in "Clean sweep," on page 33.
But before you delve too deeply into the meat of this issue, don't shortchange the cover story, "Conflicted views," by Senior Writer Randy Billings, which explores how recent rulings around conflict-of-interest charges in Augusta could have a chilling effect on business owners running for public office. A spate of appointments from the private sector has prompted some questions about how involved an officeholder can be in his private dealings — questions that cost one former commissioner his post and his business.
Also, check out "Keeping current," by Staff Writer Matt Dodge, on the cover. It's a tale of innovation and inspiration between a kayak maker in Freeport and a school that trains boatbuilders in Arundel. Their partnership is producing dazzling results for both. Watch a video showing students putting the finishing touches on a new kayak at mainebiz.biz/lincoln.