HOULTON — Now that the U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has put his stamp of approval on the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument new business and tourism opportunities will be presenting themselves and Southern Aroostook is positioning itself to cash in.
With that in mind, officials with the Aroostook Partnership (AP) and Southern Aroostook Development Corporation (SADC) held a workshop with Monument manager Tim Hudson and Lucas St. Clair, President of the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters.
About 40 municipal, private industry and economic development officials attended the luncheon to learn about possible opportunities and share ideas on how we could collaborate on tourism to benefit the County as well as the new monument.
St. Clair, whose family foundation donated the monument land and provided a $40-million endowment, said Houlton is in a great position to be a gateway to the monument.
“Houlton is a prime location to receive the tourists from Atlantic Canada and provide them with services before they reach the north end of the park, which is just south of Patten,” said St. Clair.
He added that there will be opportunities, but people need to be cautious and find the right fit for the region.
“We are committed to community and economic revitalization in inland Maine,” said St. Clair. “There are tourism opportunities, but we need to know about the tourists’ appetites to be successful.”
Monument officials are undertaking a three-year planning process to determine where and what will be part of the park, but even though it is still new people are visiting. Hudson said more than 10,000 visitors have entered the monument as of the beginning of Sept.
Hudson said some contracts, like road grading have been awarded, and additional prospects will be forthcoming. He urged business people in attendance to contact Maine Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) counselor Dana Delano about contracting with the government.
“Business owners looking to sell their products and services to government entities need to register with the federal and state government,” said Delano. “With the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, there will be new opportunities for area businesses, they have to be registered to become a vendor with the federal government and understand the solicitation and bidding process.”
Representatives of Aroostook County Tourism (ACT) were also in attendance. Pat Sutherland who chairs the ACT board, described the value of tourism to Aroostook’s economy and said the monument could also bring people to Aroostook County. She said it is highly likely that folks visiting Katahdin Woods and Waters may want to continue their vacation by heading north and it is imperative for the monument and ACT to work collaboratively when possible.
Photo top: Lucas St. Clair addresses the attendees at the recent National Monument meeting in Houlton.