Incorporated in 1791, Bangor is named for an Irish hymn entitled “Bangor,” said to be a favorite of pastor Seth Noble who traveled to Boston with the initial intention of naming the town Sunbury.
Until recently, it was generally believed that the earliest record of European exploration was found in the journals of French explorer Samuel de Champlain. In 1604, Champlain established a short-lived colony on an island off the Maine coast and explored the Penobscot River to the head of tide at Bangor. However, according to Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morrison’s 1971 book, The European Discovery of America, Estavan Gomez, a Portuguese mariner who had sailed as a captain in Magellan’s round-the-world fleet, sailed the Spanish caravel La Anunciada up the Penobscot to the future site of Bangor in 1525 under a commission from King Charles V of Spain to find the legendary northwest passage to the Orient.
Today, Bangor remains the commercial and social center of Northern, Central, and Eastern Maine. It has become the region’s largest center of retail and service businesses, and a center for government, education, and employment. Offering a widely diversified economy, Bangor has transcended its traditional roots in forest products and shipbuilding and today maintains its position as one of Maine’s major urban centers.
The City of Bangor occupies 34 square miles on the western side of the Penobscot River, 20 miles northwest of Penobscot Bay. The City is composed of urban, commercial, and industrial areas as well as numerous residential neighborhoods. Some rural areas remain within the city limits, and the city boasts tracts of forest and farm lands that abut both urban and suburban developments. In addition to the Penobscot River, which defines part of the City’s eastern boundary, the Kenduskeag Stream flows through the city, meeting the Penobscot in the downtown area.
As a primary service center, the Bangor region features a diversified economy. Unemployment normally is below both the state and federal rates.
Over the past ten years, total non-farm employment in the metropolitan area has grown from 48,000 to over 58,000, an indication of economic strength. The largest employment categories are in services, wholesale/retail trade, and government, which, taken together, represent about 55% of the labor market. At the same time, there are strong employment opportunities in other areas such as manufacturing, transportation and utilities, construction, and finance, insurance and real estate.
The area’s largest employers are a diverse group. Health Care is represented by Eastern Maine Medical Center , St. Joseph’s Hospital, Acadia Hospital, and the Bangor Mental Health Institute. The University of Maine and other area colleges and universities as well as local school systems provide a strong employment base in education. Georgia Pacific, General Electric, and Lemforders are among the local manufacturing firms. The Bangor Mall and a wide variety of other retail businesses are also a significant component of the economy.
The cost of living in Bangor is moderate when compared to the New England Region as a whole. Housing prices, the largest single family expenditure, are affordable, with the median single family home selling for approximately $110,000. Two bedroom apartments rent at approximately $550 to $600 per month, including heat, water and sewer.
If you live and work in Bangor, transportation related costs can be minimal, with most areas of the City within a ten to fifteen minute drive of our residential neighborhoods and accessible via our low-cost public transportation system.
Public water is a bargain, with the average customer paying about $10 per month. Public sewer service costs about $30, with more rural areas served by private wells and septic systems. Most homes in the region are heated with oil, and prices vary with market conditions. Electricity in Maine has been deregulated and, again, prices vary with market conditions.
Major taxes in Maine include the local property tax, which in Bangor is about 2.3% of the market value of your property per year. Property taxes on a $100,000 home are $2,300. Retail sales are taxed at 5%, with many items such as food and medicine exempt. The State income tax is graduated, similar to the federal tax structure, with incremental rates of from 2 to 8.5% depending upon taxable income.
If you currently live in Boston and earn $100,000 per year, you would need to make only $56,000 a year in Bangor to maintain you standard of living while enjoying many big city amenities in a small metropolitan area.