Utility Rate Increase Spells Big Trouble for Small Business

ISLAND FALLS/WASHBURN, Maine (WAGM) –

Much has been said regarding the impact the recent rate increase for electricity has had on residential customers, but what about small businesses. NewsSource8′s Brian Bouchard has the story.

Gerald Violette has owned and operated Jerry’s Food Store in Island Falls for more than 34 years. In that time he has seen his expenses fluctuate, but never quite as much as when he opened January’s utility bill.

“On average, my utility bill was around 4100 dollars a month, when I opened up this month’s bill it went to almost 9200.”

Small businesses, like Jerry’s Food Store, are billed at a different rate than residential customers. Before the rate increase, the store was billed at a rate of 7 cents per kilowatt hour, but now that rate has almost tripled, to 20 cents per kilowatt hour. In a time where inflation is at a 40 year high, Violette is worried that increasing the cost of products will further hurt his and other small businesses.

“This is already a depressed area anyway, and with these prices going up and everything else going up, fuel prices and everything else, I just don’t know how people are going to do it. The prices will go into product, and it’s whether or not people still support those small businesses or not.”

Over in Washburn, another small business, Country Farms Market, is also feeling the impact of higher electricity prices. Mark Kelley, Owner of Country Farms Market in Washburn posted an update on social media to inform customers of the potential impact this increase could have on small businesses.

“A lot of what my post was saying was not just on my behalf but it was ALL of us, whether you’re a grocery store in washburn, Easton, fort Fairfield, Ashland, a restaurant like the Lakeview restaurant up north or Governors in Presque Isle, we’re all seeing these bills, we’re all small businesses, we’re all supporting our towns, our communities and kind of more of just a friendly reminder of hey, we’re seeing this too, don’t forget us. You’re getting supper ready and “Oh I forgot a gallon of milk”, well we’re here for you when you need that, well now, we need you on the other side of things too.”

Kelley says, while larger stores may be able to eat a rate increase without having to raise prices for their customers, for small businesses like his, the customer will end up seeing the impact when they check out.

“We’re just independent operators, we’ve got to make that up here or we’re not going to be in business.”

Both Violette and Kelley say that their hoping their customers will remain loyal to small businesses through these tough economic times. They add as long as they can keep the lights on, they’ll continue to provide the convenient and friendly service that their customers have come to expect over the years.

Brian Bouchard, NewsSource8

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