(Photo illustration by Ethan Andrews)
(Photo illustration by Ethan Andrews)
When word got out that Athena Health would need to sell Point Lookout, there was cause for anxiety: A new buyer might not keep the present operations going, but choose instead to develop the lovely setting at the present Summit as a fancy home site. At the expected price for the land, a spectacular mega-mansion on the mountain top could be built for well within the budget of America’s new super-rich. But what a loss that would be for the community. That was the cause of the anxiety.

Point Lookout was acquired in March by a privately held Montana company named Deep Creek Grazing. The official story that came out at the time was reassuring: A nice young couple from Montana, the Hirschfelds, were the principals of Deep Creek, and they had only the best of intentions. As their spokesman told us: “The Hirschfelds look forward to welcoming new and returning guests to Point Lookout. They are devoted to the region and deeply committed to the resort’s employees. As Maine residents, they intend to be good stewards of this remarkable property.”

Whew, what a relief! Thirty-plus full-time jobs safe, and the treasure that Point Lookout had become to our area would continue to be a treasure.

A mere ten weeks later, the Hirschfelds announced that Point Lookout would be closed for good this coming December. Now the official story was different: the new owners had hired a financial consultant to assess ongoing viability (funny, you might have thought that such number-crunching was something you do before buying a company, not after) and when the numbers came back they were shocked, shocked! One of the shocking matters mentioned explicitly was that heating and ventilating systems of the twenty-year-old complex would need to be renewed as well as some of the roofs. Who’d have thunk it? Plan A was clearly unworkable. The owners really had no option but to go to Plan B, not specified but probably residential development.

You don’t have to be a total cynic to imagine that Plan B was probably Plan A all along, that the cheering initial story was kind of a sham.

In this view, what had looked like a corporate acquisition was really more a corporate raid. A corporate raid — as perfected by such finaglers as Roy Cohn and Albert “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap — is acquisition of a company with the intention of firing everyone and closing operations in order to reap the value of liquidated tangible assets. Corporate raids are always devastating to the surrounding communities. The only winners are the raiders.

So thirty-plus full-time jobs are to be lost, plus an additional fifty or so summer jobs. Tax revenue that supported the town, gone or reduced. Organizations like the Mid-Coast Forum on Foreign Relations and PopTech and Restorative Justice and Brimstone and Maine DOE and Artists & Makers and Maine Nurse Practitioners Association that depend on the Point Lookout conference center for regular meetings are to be left homeless. The wedding magnet that Point Lookout (Maine’s most popular wedding facility) had become for the area, and brought in crowds of visitors from all over the world, will be closed. Those 2020 brides who had contracted to have their weddings at Point Lookout next summer would have to be called to learn that what they had thought was a contract was in fact something rather different, a vague indication of possibilities, and that those possibilities were sadly no longer possible.

Point Lookout has been an important focal point for our community. Its loss is nothing less than a body blow.

The loss of any of what Point Lookout brought to us is upsetting, but I keep returning to those lost jobs. In more than a dozen years that my consulting business took me to Hewlett Packard multiple times per year, I came away with a powerful sense of what it means to create jobs. Founder Bill Hewlett was still at the helm in those years, and people who worked there were positively giddy about what a great place to work HP was, and to what extent it was due to Bill. When he stepped down, Hewlett was interviewed at the retirement gala. He was asked what he was most proud of among his accomplishments at HP. “Jobs,” he said without hesitation. Great jobs for people to make good money doing fascinating work, creating no pollution, making no weapons. Creating jobs, he said, that’s what he was most proud of. “Oh. What about the computers and instruments that we build?” Those are nice too, he answered, mostly because they have allowed us to create some 30,000 good jobs.

If we admire the Bill Hewletts of the world for creating jobs, what are we to think of the Roy Cohns and Al Dunlaps (and now the Hirschfelds?) who eliminate them?