Saco, Maine – York County

February 21, 2024

Saco, Maine

A Welcoming community set in beautiful natural surroundings


Embracing its historical roots and championing a bright future for its residents

Adopting the tagline “Friendly by Nature,” the city of Saco truly illustrates the warmth and welcoming spirit that defines New England living. Established in 1867, the community of close to 21,000 has evolved into one of Maine’s 10 largest cities by population, blending natural splendor and a rich heritage.

A Glimpse of Saco’s Charm

Emily Roy, the city’s Communications Director, provides insight into Saco’s unique charm, sharing, “When we describe Saco we often showcase our beautiful beaches, the picturesque downtown, thriving  businesses, and  the friendly, neighborly characteristics that you would expect  in a New England community.”

As part of Maine’s coastal region, the city’s allure is further enhanced by its remarkable landscape, world-class education opportunities, and a working waterfront. “We still have a lot of fishermen operating out of Camp Ellis which is our coastal community fishing area. Additionally we offer many recreational opportunities, such as, fishing, hiking, and biking. We have a great trail network and beautiful parks. We believe that Saco has plenty to offer residents, visitors, and businesses,” Roy says.

Growth and Economic Development

Economic Development Director, Tracey Desjardins, emphasizes Saco’s strategic positioning for growth, citing a collaborative 2020 market analysis with Camoin Associates. The findings underscore key industries, including Health Care and Social Assistance, Retail, Educational Services, and Manufacturing, indicating the city’s diverse economic landscape.

Maine Molecular Quality Controls is a major employer in the community, specializing in research and testing, and assisting in FDA approvals to bring innovations to market. Furthermore, the city’s economic growth is evident in the recent establishment of a Frito Lay distribution center, and expansion at Maine Needham Company, a manufacturer of the beloved chocolate-covered potato and coconut treat.

“Maine Needham Company  is  owned by a husband-and-wife team. An interesting initiative they  championed was to introduce a Maine Needham Day through the state legislature so that it could be recognized in partnership with the potato industry as well as the candy manufacturers,” says Roy. “And of course, the potatoes come right here from Maine,” continues Desjardins.

Saco is home to both a business park and an industrial park, housing a multi-faceted range of enterprises. Desjardins highlights the presence of dress designer Ashley Lauren, who operates in the business park. “People fly in from Paris, California, and from all over the world just to buy her dresses,” she says. “She had a shop in New York. Her dad has buildings  in our business park, and she wanted to be back home to operate her world-renowned dress design business in her hometown of Saco.”  Ashley also founded National Dress Day, which takes place annually on March 6.

This success story exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit that often draws individuals back to Maine, as Desjardins adds, “Maine is the oldest state in the nation, and our tagline now is ‘Welcome Home.’. You get folks that move out and when they get to the level that they want to be, they tend to come back home. This is where they want to be, this is where they want to have their business. So, you see that growth in that entrepreneur population.”

Education and Workforce Development

Saco actively engages in workforce development programs, collaborating with educational institutions to prepare students for various career pathways. Thornton Academy, a private high school attracting a global student body, offers top-notch educational opportunities, including advanced placement (AP) courses in preparation for post-secondary education.

The Biddeford Center of Technology, serving students from Saco and Biddeford, focuses on trades and vocational skills. “They have 20 Career Pathways, getting into some of those trades, and that’s what’s missing in Maine,” Desjardins acknowledges. “At the state level, they have a Workforce Development Board.  The goal is to work with universities and community colleges to train more tradespeople to help fill the workforce for companies with trained employees.”

Saco also collaborates with York County Community College to provide free tuition to local students and affordable training for businesses and organizations. With an influx of new residents in the area, the city is also working with local companies to fill workforce gaps and ensure employment opportunities. Desjardins offers the example of Ready Seafood, a well-established lobster processing business.

“A lot of new Mainers work there,” she says. “This company provides housing for workers, and  pays extra money for the transportation system to make special trips because of their work schedule. . They have a bus shelter right outside their facility.”



Residential Development and Affordable Housing

With a population on the rise, housing development is a key focus. Various projects, ranging from condos along the river, and larger housing complexes, all the way to in-law apartments, aim to address the city’s diverse housing needs. To foster affordable solutions, Saco was proactive in the adoption of the State’s LD 2003 housing bill.

“That bill removed the regulatory barriers to increase housing production in Maine,” Desjardins reports. “By adopting that ordinance and putting it into place, we’ve opened the door for developers to consider the bonus density that they get with LD 2003, which allows for them to build more affordable housing units.”

Saco’s commitment to housing development extends to collaborations with state-level programs, grants, and partnerships with organizations like the local housing authority and Habitat for Humanity. “Saco is trying to be on the cutting edge as far as housing because it is a problem, not just in Maine, but it is everywhere,” Desjardins recognizes. “However, Saco is evaluating different options to ensure sufficient housing stock is available.” 

Revitalizing the Heart of the City

In recent years, Saco has undertaken initiatives to revitalize its historic downtown. A comprehensive plan, adopted in 2022 and extending to 2034, charts the city’s course toward a more dynamic urban center. “One of the things we’re working on now is to  make the area more viable, really bringing the whole downtown feel with the livability, the walkability,  restaurants, shops and people living on the upper floors,” Desjardins maintains.

In partnership with the Saco Main Street Program, an effort is also underway to create a concise inventory of the downtown, making it easy to identify the details of available space. “We get calls all the time asking what we have for available space,” explains Desjardins.

“ To focus on streamlining processes for businesses, we want to do an inventory of available space and work with the business owners to find complementary businesses to fill any vacancies.” Saco also offers several grant programs to support and incentivize small businesses. “We want to push that out there and let the businesses know, the ones that are there, as well as others looking to come to the area, we are here to help and make them stronger and be sustainable within their business,” she asserts.

Tourism and Quality of Life Opportunities

When it comes to drawing tourists in, Saco offers an array of attractions, from seasonal activities like water and amusement parks, and tourist destinations like Camp Ellis and the Saco River, to thriving fishing and recreational sectors, drawing people from far and wide.

“Saco has really got everything that a community could ask for,” admits Desjardins. “You have the tourists, you have the fishing industry, you have the recreational industry, but then you have the quaint little downtown area. You have the river, which is very unique because it actually flows into the ocean. Then you get further out, and you have the countryside, where there is some beautiful farmland.”

Saco’s Parks and Recreation Department plays a pivotal role in enhancing the quality of life for residents. “Our parks and rec department is just phenomenal,” Desjardins touts, “Over the past five years, they’ve rebuilt all the neighborhood playgrounds and parks, providing equitably distributed recreation opportunities for families in their own neighborhoods.” Over the past two years, Saco has also seen the revitalization of Diamond Riverside Park with a new boat launch, playground, and improved walking trails. The city’s community center is another valued recreational resource, hosting a wide range of programs that cater to various age groups, from sandbox play time to exercise classes for seniors.

A Future Vision

Looking to the future, Saco is dedicated to its vision of offering an exceptional quality of life for our residents and businesses.  “My goal as Mayor is to support and facilitate Saco’s vibrant economy while maintaining responsible growth and sustainability,” says Saco’s Mayor Jodi MacPhail.   One of Saco’s major infrastructure investments includes a $50 million dollar voter-approved bond issuance for an upgrade to Saco’s Water Resource Recovery Facility to ensure sustainability and community livability now and into the future.

As a friendly, welcoming city, Saco is committed to thoughtful growth management and remains focused on preserving its rich history and natural beauty, while embracing a forward-thinking approach to community building and quality of life opportunities.

Click The Cover To View Or Download The Brochure


Saco, Maine

What: A friendly New England City, with growth in the forecast

Where: York County, Maine



York County Community College  –

York County Community College (YCCC), founded in 1994, is dedicated to developing an educated and skilled workforce to meet the evolving needs of York County. Our core mission drives every program and initiative, ensuring that our educational offerings align with the regional economic landscape and labor market demands.

As York County’s beacon for educational excellence and workforce development, YCCC offers a wide array of programs, from industry-recognized credentials to associate degrees. These programs are designed not just for immediate employment, but for lifelong learning and adaptability in a rapidly changing world.

YCCC’s strategic location fosters a unique synergy between education, industry, and community, making it an essential partner for both businesses seeking skilled talent and individuals aiming for personal and professional growth. Our commitment to accessible education underscores our role in propelling economic mobility, enriching lives, and strengthening the fabric of our community.

We invite you to join our mission at YCCC. Explore our programs at and see how we can support your ambitions, whether you’re looking to enhance your skills, embark on a new career, or contribute to the prosperity of York County. Together, we can shape a future that reflects our shared vision of excellence and innovation.

Calare Properties, Inc. –

Hancock Lumber –


February 2024

You may also like