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Notes from APP and NMDC
Volume 3, Issue 113
Oct. 17, 2014
In This Issue
Question 3
Diversified Ag
Opportunities Aroostook
Question 3 and Aroostook County

    CARIBOU - A yes vote on Question 3 this November will have the opportunity to extend a program that has supported small businesses and created local jobs across Maine for 20 years.

    Small businesses- from Goughan's Berry Farm in Caribou, Lakeview Restaurant in St. Agatha and Littleton Pit Stop in Littleton - have benefited from the financing available through the Regional Economic Development Revolving Loan Program (REDRLP) and the companion Commercial Loan Insurance (CLI) program. Since REDRLP was created by the Legislature in 1993, 772 revolving loans of $16.2 million have been disbursed, helping to create and retain about 10,500 jobs in total. During that time the Business Finance Division at Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) has made 94 loans to 73 different clients.

    Voting yes on Question 3 will authorize a bond that will continue funding these successful programs and provide $8,000,000 in funds to make flexible loans to small businesses to create jobs, revitalize downtowns, and strengthen the rural economy and provide $4,000,000 in funds to insure portions of loans to small businesses to spur investment and innovation.

    "Small businesses sustain Maine's rural economy, providing jobs for our friends and neighbors," said Bob Clark, Executive Director NMDC. "One of the barriers for small business ownership and growth in our state has been a lack of access to flexible capital, the kind of capital that works closely with conventional bank funds in filling gaps and helping a business start or expand."

    The program was created during Governor McKernan's administration, and carried through under every subsequent administration.

    REDRLP is managed by the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME), which grants the authorized pool of funds to local economic development agencies, including NMDC, with the requirement that they establish ongoing revolving loan funds to support the program. Borrowers who meet program eligibility criteria are able to access the funds. Commercial Loan Insurance (CLI) enables FAME to issue insurance to financial institutions that are making loans to business borrowers.

    Multiple, diverse organizations focused on fueling the state's growth support these two programs. "Maine needs strategic investment in small business to create jobs in communities across the state," said GrowSmart Maine Executive Director Nancy Smith.

"With strong demand for investments and historic low interest rates, the timing is right for these proposals."

    To learn more about how voting Yes on Question 3 will help create new jobs in your community and grow small business, visit the Mainers for Small Businesses Facebook page, at 

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Busy harvest season for Aroostook Partnership for Progress 


    AROOSTOOK COUNTY - The growing season has ended and the potato harvest is nearly complete, but agriculture is still a hot topic for economic development officials.

    In September, the Economic Development Council of Maine held its quarterly conference, which focused on "Maine's Food Basket: Strategic Options for Growth."

    Aroostook Partnership for Progress (APP) President Bob Dorsey was asked to participate in the conference, mainly due to the Partnerships work over the past year in diversified agriculture and his participation as a member of the Maine Food Strategy Steering Committee.

    "There is a growing statewide interest in the value of local foods and the realization that diversified agriculture is an important element in growing the economy of Aroostook and Maine," said Dorsey.

    Paul Cyr captured this image of the SAD 1 School Farm earlier this month.

    The conference featured segments on Maine in the Food Business, moderated by Dorsey, and Economic Opportunities in Maine. Chris Hallweaver, of Northern Girl in Aroostook County, also participated in the Maine in the Food Business discussion.

    "I discussed the emerging trends in Maine and New England," Dorsey said. "Aroostook County has excess capacity for produce production, but I also highlighted the opportunities and challenges of using that capacity."

    Within the past few weeks, Hallweaver and Sam Blackstone of Caribou requested APP help spearhead a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) pilot project in the Caribou area to test the feasibility of this approach that has had growing success in southern Maine.

    "A CSA is a program whereby folks sign up and pay in advance in the spring of the year, usually for weekly food delivery throughout the summer growing season," said Dorsey. "For example, there might be a $200 or a $400 program whereby the producer would make weekly deliveries of boxes of fresh vegetables/berries etc. to a specific location."

    Dorsey added CSAs promote local farmers, allow customers easy access to fresh, healthy foods and allows for some influx of capital to farmers in the spring when they must fund seed, fertilizer, equipment costs, etc.

    Dorsey has had discussions with organizations like Pines Health Services and Cary Medical Center, which have shown interest in supporting a CSA pilot project.

    "Ultimately it would be great to see multiple CSAs around The County to help our agriculture economy, but it is prudent to test the concept as a first step, which we believe this pilot project is a perfect approach," Dorsey added.

    Another positive sign for diversified agriculture is the growth of the two food co-ops in Aroostook.

    "The Houlton Co-op is now featuring local products from about 30 local producers just in Aroostook," said Meg York Scott of The County Co-op and Farm Store. "We will be expanding our inventory to include more Maine products from distributors such as Crown of Maine Organic Cooperative and Associated Buyers with bulk products, local meats, etc. Everything in our store right now is 100 percent local, produced within 100 miles. We are also hosting a farm-to-table dinner in November using all local food sources on the menu. Many more interesting and exciting events featuring local artists, musicians, comedians, authors, etc are on the horizon along with the expansion of the store."

    The Market Street Co-op in Fort Kent is growing, evidenced by the caf opening with a full drink menu, soups and baked goods.

    Co-op founder Stacy Martin said they can still use more produce suppliers in the St. John Valley. She added the CSA concept is also being considered in the Valley.

    In 2013, APP identified diversified agriculture as an area of potential growth during the Mobilize Northern Maine asset based planning process.

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