Vol. 2, Issue 8                                                        Oct. 18, 2017
NMDC Receives Investment to Help Communities Build Capacity

    CARIBOU — Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) will provide nearly 30 Aroostook County communities with the skills, knowledge and resources to build their abilities to undertake local development projects thanks to an investment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

   Speaking at the most recent NMDC Executive Board meeting Thursday, Oct. 12 in Caribou, Alain Ouellette, Planning and Development Division Director, said USDA awarded a Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) investment of $100,000 for the commission to help build capacity for housing, community facilities and economic development for municipalities in the region, which meet low to moderate income guidelines.

   Ouellette said the RCDI program is a good fit for northern Maine due to the fact 77% of NMDC service area communities are under 1,000 in population with limited municipal staff, many communities are served by part-time administrators and 30% of administrators have fewer than five years’ experience.

   “RCDI will provide training and technical assistance to allow smaller communities to compete with grant funding opportunities,” said Ouellette.

   Five training sessions will be held starting in the spring of next year to provide municipal leaders with added skills to improve their communities.

   For more information on the project, contact Joella Theriault, Community Development Specialist, at 551-5812 or by email at jtheriault@nmdc.org.

   Also at the meeting, NMDC Executive Director Robert Clark, presented findings of a recent monitoring of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at NMDC. He said the report came back with a long list of positives and staff are working well to support small businesses in the region.

   He added most goals were met or exceeded, including the number of long-term clients and capital infusion. The goal was for 60 long term clients, which was exceeded by 14. The target for capital infusion was $3,000,000 and actual was $4,510,230.

   Clark added the monitoring report concluded the Center should be a model for best practices.

   Rosa McNally, a Houlton town councilor, was voted to join the Executive Board in place of former Town Manager Butch Asselin, until Houlton hires a permanent replacement.

   Also at the meeting, the board approved a winter meeting schedule to coincide with the ending of Daylight Savings Time on Nov. 5, 2017. Starting December 14, the Executive Board will meet at 12:30 p.m., instead of at 3 p.m.


Aroostook County Tourism Promotes Snowmobiling Before the Snow Flies

   AROOSTOOK COUNTY — The brightly colored leaves are falling from the trees in Aroostook County, the season of white snow laced fields will soon be here. That has tourism officials thinking snowmobile season in northern Maine and now is the time to let folks know why snowmobiling in Aroostook County should not be missed.

   Aroostook County Tourism (ACT) is spending the month of October traveling to snowmobile events in New Hampshire and southern Maine to spread the word.

   ACT staffed the Snowmobile Grass Drags in New Hampshire and will display at the Maine Snowmobile Show in Augusta.

   “The time to attract the snowmobilers is before the snow falls and early in the season when northern Maine often has snow and other parts of Maine lag,” said NMDC’s Alain Ouellette, Planning and Development Division Director.

   It is estimated snowmobiling in Maine is a $300 million to $350 million business responsible for 23,000 jobs statewide.

   Aroostook County boasts more than 2,200 miles of trails and national snowmobiling magazines routinely rank the trail system in northern Maine as a “Top Ten” destination in North America.

   Per research conducted for the Maine Office of Tourism, tourists contributed $157-million to Aroostook County in 2016, an increase of over 13% over 2015. The tourism industry in Aroostook supports 2,784 jobs and $53,242,069 in total earnings and nearly $15-million in total taxes.

   Once the snowmobiling season begins, Gary Marquis, superintendent of Parks and Recreation in Caribou and a member of the ACT board, will again deliver the Snowmobile Trail Report. The report will be available on Channel X Radio and WHOU this snowmobile season, but to attract more snowmobilers to the region a greater emphasis is being placed on the internet and social media.

   “We offer probably one of the best products out there for snowmobilers,” said Marquis. “And with gas prices still low, people are willing to drive to the region and experience the exceptional trails of Aroostook County.”

   A link to the report will also be available on www.visitaroostook.com and on the Aroostook County Tourism Facebook page.

   Aroostook County Tourism is dedicated to improving the economy of northern Maine through its tourism efforts. Working under the brand Aroostook “the Crown of Maine”, ACT promotes some of the region’s greatest assets like its pristine beauty, diverse culture, storied history and warm, hospitable people to potential visitors from around the world. Funding for ACT is provided in part through a grant from the Maine Office of Tourism.

Business Skills and FSA Information Workshop for Producers Set for Nov. 13

   ISLAND FALLS — Registration is underway for a free business skills workshop for agriculture producers and would be producers this November in Island Falls.

   Join Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) staff, representatives from the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) and others to better your business skills. This four-hour workshop, at the Island Falls Town Office Monday, Nov. 13 from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., will explore record and bookkeeping, accounting processes, cash flow statements and more. Farm Credit of Maine will also discuss tax planning and preparation. FSA officials will also be on hand to explain federal programs designed to help producers.

   Earlier this year the USDA announced cooperative agreements with partners to educate producers, including those who have been historically underserved by USDA programs, about FSA programs that provide financial, disaster or technical support. Under a cooperative agreement with FSA, NMDC received funding to provide educational services to agricultural producers in Aroostook County.

   The number of Maine farmers aged 34 and younger grew by nearly 40 percent in the five years from 2007 to 2012, the last time the USDA did a comprehensive agriculture census. That growth surge — from 396 to 551 young farmers — far surpassed the 1.5 percent increase in the numbers of young farmers in the United States.

   “With an increase in younger and start up producers, there is a need for additional business skills and knowledge of government programs, which can be of tremendous value to the agricultural community,” said Alain Ouellette, Planning and Development Director at NMDC. “NMDC has designed a series of five workshops, held at various locations throughout the region, to provide information about FSA programs, all while giving producers additional skills to better manage their business.”

   Ouellette encourages producers to attend, but says the information is also valuable to anyone who wishes to better their business skills.

   Pre-registration is required at www.nmdc.org.

   For more information, contact Ouellette at 551-5837, or by email at aouellette@nmdc.org.

Business Finance Division Assists Allagash Entrepreneur
    The NMDC Business Finance Division in the last month closed two loans to assist an Allagash business.
   Tylor Kellys Camps is a family owned camp and guide business located in Allagash with a long history in the region. The loans will allow the Kelly’s to purchase an existing building and renovate it into a lodge to accomodate customers of the guide business. This will enable them to add additional guided bear and moose hunts to their season and add additional employees.
CDBG Guidelines Released by the State

The 2018 CDBG Proposed Program Statement was released by the Office of Community Development (OCD) last week during the Maine Municipal Association’s Annual Convention.  Changes to the 2018 program include –

  • Underground Storage Tank Grants: This program provides gap funding for petroleum tank replacement activities, which alleviates a threat to the health and safety of the general public.  UST funds will be distributed through a set-aside of CDBG funds provided to the County of Aroostook as the lead community who will disburse funds to approved projects.
  • OCD will accept only one application per program per community.
  • There will be only one round of funding for the Economic Development Program.
  • The only housing activities will be the rehabilitation of occupied or vacant multi-family housing units and conversion of non-residential structures.  Communities must have an identified multi-family project with a developer approved by OCD.

Other programs available under the CDBG Program include –

  • Downtown Revitalization
  • Micro-Enterprise Assistance
  • Public Infrastructure
  • Public Service

For more information on the CDBG program, please contact Joella R. Theriault at jtheriault@nmdc.org or by calling 551-5812.  The complete listing and descriptions of the 2018 CDBG program can be viewed at www.meocd.org.

Does Your Community Need a New Comprehensive Plan?
    Contrary to popular opinion, comprehensive planning is alive in Maine.  A comprehensive plan is a mechanism for managing the future of a community. Much like a business plan for a private business, a comprehensive plan evaluates the town’s assets, determines strategies to improve performance and profitability, and allocates resources. When it is a town doing the planning, our resources are the taxpayers’ money, so even greater thought and effort must be put into spending wisely.
    Maine enacted the Growth Management Act in 1988, specifying the format and goals for local comprehensive planning and was subsequently amended to require local comprehensive plans to undergo a new State review for consistency every 12 years, incorporating new data and findings into the planning process.  
    Approximately 12 years ago, nearly all state funding for the completion of comprehensive plans and ordinances supported by those plans was eliminated. With an average cost to complete a comprehensive plan in the $25,000 range and ordinances in the $6,000 to $12,000 range, most municipalities do not have the funds available to develop these documents. More recently, CDBG funds have been eliminated that provided very small amounts of funding to communities wishing to complete plans. Additionally, at the same time, funding for Regional Councils from the State’s General Fund also declined. These funds allowed Regional Councils to provide free technical assistance, in direct support to the Growth Management Act, to municipalities beginning the planning process or having difficulty with certain aspects of their process.
    There are two main components of the Plan: Inventory and Analysis, and Goals, Policies, and Strategies.  The Inventory and Analysis reviews and examines the town’s assets and uses State and Federal data found at, but not limited to, the US Census, Maine Department of Transportation, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, taxable sales, and other regional data.  It also examines local data such as assessments, permits, and business inventories.  When planning, there needs to be discussions with town officials, department heads, business owners, land owners, economic development, environmental, historic and cultural organizations, and residents to gather their input and ideas.  Ultimately, the Inventory and Analysis examines what is working well, what needs improvement and identifies future opportunities.
    Goals, Policies, and Strategies are the action items of the Plan.  They identify programs and services that the community wants to accomplish during the next 10-12 years.  The key to a successful plan is not in the number of recommendations it generates, but how well those recommendations are (can be) put into action.  The responsibility for implementation almost always falls on the leadership of the municipality.  For example, capital improvements should be matched up with grant possibilities for desired programs or purchases. New initiatives should be identified as well as those that should be continued.
    Do comprehensive planning programs make a difference?  Some will say that the reviews are mixed.   However, communities with strong planning programs work hard as a whole to keep their streets in good condition, to place development in appropriate locations, have visitors utilize their restaurants and stores for a short visit, provide a safe community for all, and ultimately work to make their community a very satisfying place to live and grow up.
    For more information on Comprehensive Plans, contact Jay Kamm, NMDC Senior Planner, at jkamm@nmdc.org or by phone at 493-5757,
PO BOX 779, CARIBOU, ME, O4736