ELLSWORTH — Surprise, surprise, surprise: Tourism is the engine that drives the business machine in Hancock County.
This past summer, the machine was in overdrive. Inns and restaurants in Hancock County posted substantial gains during the third quarter (July, August, September) over the same period one year ago.
According to taxable sales figures supplied by the Maine Bureau of Taxation, the county’s inns, motels and hotels enjoyed an 8.7 percent increase in revenue over the 2014 third-quarter figures — $81,773,000 vs. $75,209,000.
The tourists and visitors who found lodging here also gave a significant boost to Hancock County’s restaurants. Third-quarter sales were up 5.7 percent from last year — $76,144,000 vs. $72,023,000.
The most robust gains for the period are found in sales of automobiles and boats. That sector leapt 12.5 percent, from $40,613,000 during the third quarter of 2014 to $45,709,000 in 2015.
The bad news isn’t news at all, but it’s bad — the closing of the Verso paper mill in Bucksport was a major hit to the business operations category. Taxable sales for business operations in the county dropped from 2014’s $10,114,000 to this past summer’s $9,149,000, a drop of 9.5 percent.
All other areas of taxable sales in Hancock County posted gains over 2014. Not only were these gains substantially above the 2014 levels, they exceeded the statewide average in all sectors save business operations.