Located in the western region of Maine, Oxford County boasts a sprawling natural landscape that has fragmented the population, creating a density of 26 people per square mile.
Historically, the manufacturing of wood products, paper, shoes, leather, and metalworking formed the base of Oxford County’s economy, along with tourism. For many years, these industries, especially manufacturing, sustained the Oxford County economy. Over the last three decades, with the expansion of free international trade, some of these manufacturing companies have closed their Maine factories, including some in Oxford County. These closures resulted in a loss of 22,400 jobs statewide. Although manufacturing remains a mainstay of the county’s economy, the economic base has shifted from manufacturing to other industries, such as tourism, health care and education. This shift has led to an increase in unemployment and underemployment, and a decline in economic opportunities because of lower wages and seasonal employment.
As economic opportunities in Oxford County have declined, poverty has become an increasing concern for residents. In addition to poverty, the county is facing rising rates of mental health issues; a lack of public transportation; high rates of obesity; and increasing substance use. In the last 15 years, health coalitions and state legislators have worked to connect Oxford County residents and address these challenges through strategic partnerships and community engagement. Despite these improvements, Oxford County still faces several challenges, including potential legislative changes that could threaten public health funding.