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Notes from APP and NMDC
Volume 3, Issue 114
Oct. 31, 2014
In This Issue
Certified Business Friendly
Cluster Development
Electric Rate Education
Van Buren receives business designation

    VAN BUREN - Van Buren is the most recent Aroostook County community to be designated "Certified Business-Friendly" by Governor LePage and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

    "It is exciting to be recognized for the hard work and commitment put forth by the Town of Van Buren in promoting new economic development and helping our existing businesses grow and prosper," said Dan McClung, Van Buren Town Manager. "We have an aggressive growth strategy for economic development and this certification is a key piece of the puzzle."

    The "Certified Business-Friendly Community" program, administered by DECD, encourages Maine municipalities to take a critical look at all areas of their business attraction strategy and examine ways the community interacts with businesses to promote new private investment.

    In a letter of support for the designation, Northern Maine Development Commission Executive Director Robert Clark wrote, "Over the past decade, Van Buren has been proactive in putting in place both infrastructure and processes that will assist new enterprises in doing business in the community."

    Clark added Van Buren took advantage of having a USDA Empowerment Zone designation to obtain funding from both the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and USDA Rural Development to expand their industrial park. As a result, a value-added food processor, Northern Girl, and Northern Maine Paving have moved into the park with the help of the Pine Tree Zone program, Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement and Business Equipment Tax Exemption programs and Tax Increment Financing, with the assistance of NMDC.

    The "Certified Business-Friendly Community" program began in 2012. Since then, the list of "Certified Business-Friendly" communities in Aroostook County has grown to include Caribou, Fort Kent, Presque Isle and now Van Buren.

    Each community is awarded a certificate of achievement, two MaineDOT road signs and becomes a key part of Maine's business attraction strategy. 

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Work continues to grow the forest-based economy of northern Maine

    CARIBOU - The Aroostook Partnership for Progress (APP) is looking to expand its current forestry-working group into a leadership committee for an industry cluster in an effort to continue to grow the forest-based economy of northern Maine.

    Meeting Wednesday, Oct. 29, in Caribou, the working group, made up of state officials, economic developers, bankers, industry experts and congressional staff, discussed forming the Northern Forest Products Industry Cluster (NFPIC) to explore economic opportunities and address challenges, like workforce development and energy.

    "Industry clusters are groups of similar and related firms and support services in a defined geographic area that share common markets, technologies, worker skill needs and which are often linked by buyer-seller relationships," said APP President Bob Dorsey. "This is a bottom up approach lead by the private sector."

    Dorsey added the cluster would result in a better understanding of the value chain; it will identify and strengthen the distinctive competitive position the region has and will enhance innovation and knowledge sharing.

File photo

    Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) has received federal funding to help establish the cluster and has set up a timeline of support work, which calls for identifying the cluster participants and setting up a structure and governance. Following those steps comes the most important tasks, led by the cluster members themselves, of identifying common opportunities and issues to address, developing short and long-term priorities, concrete actions and creating measurable benchmarks before June 2015.

    "The forest products industry accounts for over 6,800 jobs in Aroostook County and impacts many different businesses from hospitals and retail stores to paper and wood products manufacturing," said NMDC Executive Director Bob Clark. "It has such a high concentration of employment compared to other regions that it offers the greatest opportunity to create economic wealth for the region."

    "This process is driven by cluster participants," added Dorsey. "They are the key to focusing the forest sector efforts and identifying which areas of the value chain they wish to strengthen to increase our products regional and global competitiveness."

    Discussion at the working group meeting focused on which businesses and organizations to ask to join the cluster and how to articulate why it is in someone's self-interest to participate.

    "You need to tell a positive story," said Don Tardie, retired Maine Woods Company mill manager. "It is important to let the businesses know how clusters have been successful in other parts of the country and why a Northern Forest Products Industry Cluster would be beneficial to them."

    Industry clusters have been very successful in other regions of the United States. Working group members suggested bringing a representative of one of those clusters to the region to discuss the advantages of the concept.

APP/LEAD members get an update on electric rates in northern Maine

    Mike Eaton, Rates Manager for Emera Maine, discusses electricity supply and distribution costs with members of LEADers Encouraging Aroostook Development and Aroostook Partnership for Progress. Eaton said a well-publicized increase in costs due to natural gas supply concerns is not an issue for the Maine Public Service District of Emera Maine. Only electric utilities connected to ISO New England will see costs spike this winter.

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