Vol. 4, Issue 12                                                      Sept. 21, 2018
NMDC Executive Board Updated on New Lending Practices to be Implemented
   CARIBOU — Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) will soon be changing some of its lending practices with new technology and more. The NMDC Executive Board, meeting Thursday, Sept. 13, was informed of the details of a loan fund review by Jason Friedman and Associates. The review is part of the organization’s steps to incorporate more impact lending.
   Executive Director Robert Clark told the board the lending process from pipeline to closing will be enhanced with a new on-line intake form, which will be mobile friendly and creates a baseline for impact metrics.
   Clark added lending process efficiencies will also be upgraded by new software and a streamlined loan presentation/credit analysis process.
   “We currently have to retype data into various programs and spreadsheets, which is not very efficient,” said Clark. “We hope these new technologies will improve the lending experience for our customers and loan officers.”
   This review of the loan portfolio is in conjunction with NMDC recently being designated a Community Development Financial Institution by the U.S. Department of Treasury. This certification will allow NMDC to expand lending services in Aroostook, Washington, Penobscot and Piscataquis counites.
   The CDFI Fund was established in 1994 to promote economic revitalization and community development in low-income communities that may be underserved by traditional financial institutions. By certifying qualified institutions, CDFI brings together diverse private and public-sector investors to create economic opportunity.
   In other meeting news, senior planner Jay Kamm updated Executive Board members on the status of efforts to federally designate a bicycle route from Bangor to the St. John Valley. NMDC, in conjunction with the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT), started the project to achieve the bike route designation, which should provide significant economic, transportation, environmental and health benefits to residents and visitors to Aroostook and northern Penobscot counties.
   Kamm said maps have been emailed to all the communities, from Bangor to Fort Kent, each County government and tribes. He added meetings with the communities, where the bike route may be located, have begun. He has also contacted bike enthusiasts for their input.
   “We plan on two public meetings in the near future,” said Kamm. “One in the Presque Isle region and the other in the Lincoln area.”
   Kamm anticipates filing the completed application in Aug. 2019.
   Two new board members, Royden Hunt of Island Falls and Rosa McNally of Houlton, were also approved at the meeting.
   The next NMDC Executive Board meeting is Thursday, October 11th in Caribou.
    Photo caption:  NMDC Executive Board Chairperson Dave Cyr, right, and Executive Director Robert Clark prepare to call to order for the most recent board meeting.
Photo courtesy: Paul Cyr
    Aroostook County Tourism salutes all the riders, volunteers, communities and Bicycle Coalition of Maine for a successful BikeMaine event, which highlighted the beauty and culture of Aroostook County. 
ACT Tourism Conference set for Oct. 25

   AROOSTOOK COUNTY — All things tourism will be on the table at an upcoming 2018 Aroostook County Tourism Conference.

   The event, being sponsored by Aroostook County Tourism (ACT) and Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC), is set for Thursday, Oct. 25 at 8:30 a.m. at the Caribou Inn and Convention Center.

   At the event the current state of hospitality and tourism in The County will be discussed, why tourism impacts the bottom line for most businesses in the region, the importance of destination marketing and little to no cost ways to market a business.

   Alain Ouellette, planning and development division director at NMDC, said in 2017, $155 million was spent by tourists coming to Aroostook County. Also, 2,752 jobs were supported by tourism in the region generating more than $53.3 million in total earnings.

   “Times have never been better for expanding tourism to The County’s economic mix,” said Robert Clark, NMDC Executive Director. “Visitors have lost interest in cookie cutter restaurants, lodging and attractions. Instead, they want local food, local attractions and connection to the lifestyles of local people.”

   “I would hope anyone who is touched by tourism would attend this conference,” said Ouellette. “We have subject matter experts on the agenda and we have also built in time for networking.”

   Lee Speronis, an associate professor and director of the School of Hospitality, Sport and Tourism Management at Husson University, will discuss the state of tourism in Maine. Steve Dobson, an ACT board member and lodging owner, will present on small business and tourism. Elizabeth Sutherland of Sutherland Weston, a public relations firm in Bangor, will have information on promoting your business. Sheila Jans of CultureWorth will speak on the importance of cultural heritage promotion. The keynote will be on destination marketing and presented by Donna Moreland of the Maine Office of Tourism.

   The half-day conference does include a buffet style lunch. Registration is $25, but early bird registrants can sign up for only $20 through Oct. 1.

   Electronic registration is available at www.nmdc.org.

   ACT, a standing board of the Northern Maine Development Commission, 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 wonderful hospitality to visitors from around the world.

St. John Valley Broadband Survey Under Way

   AROOSTOOK COUNTY — Residents and business owners in the St. John Valley are urged to complete online surveys to determine internet satisfaction.

   Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) and Axiom are working on a project to improve broadband speeds, internet access and enhance digital literacy and inclusion.

   NMDC was recently awarded a ConnectME grant to complete Phase I of the project, which calls for meeting with municipal and business leaders from the region, creating and distributing surveys to businesses and residents, analysis of survey results and sharing information gathered with ConnectME.

   The ConnectME Authority is a public instrumentality of Maine state government whose mission is to facilitate the universal availability of broadband to all Maine households and businesses and help them understand the valuable role it can play in enriching their lives and helping their communities thrive.

   “We held a meeting with businesses and municipal leaders a few weeks ago and gained valuable insight into the needs and wants, but more information is needed,” said Alain Ouellette, planning and development division director at NMDC. “The surveys are a valuable tool and what is gleaned from them will guide us onto Phase II of the project.”

   Phase II will focus on an inventory of existing broadband infrastructure assets; a gap analysis to define additional broadband infrastructure to meet identified goals; and include potential network designs, cost estimates, operating models and business models.

   Throughout the project digital inclusion will also be stressed. Digital Inclusion is defined as the “ability of individuals and groups to access and use information and communication technologies (ICTs). Digital inclusion encompasses not only access to the Internet but also the availability of hardware and software; relevant content and services; and training for the digital literacy skills required for effective use of information and communication technologies.

   “Our success with expanding and improving the level and extent of internet broadband services rest with your participation,” added Ouellette.

   The resident survey can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/nmlbcommunitysurvey.

   The business survey is at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/nmlbbusinesssurvey.

   Both surveys can also be accessed at www.nmdc.org.

PTAC Open House at NMDC
    Northern Maine Development Commission is hosting an open house Wed., Sept. 26 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. in recognition of National PTAC Day.  All area businesses and government officials are invited to stop in and meet with Dana Delano, PTAC Business Counselor, to learn more about the many programs available to increase business revenues.
    For the past 33 years, PTACs all around the country have been helping small businesses sell to Federal, State and local governments. This September, 95 PTACs from around the country are coming together for one special day to celebrate the success of the tens of thousands of small businesses who have benefited from training and technical assistance delivered by their local PTACs. In 2017, the national PTAC network served over 48,000 clients and helped them win over $20 billion in government contracts and subcontracts.
Draft High Crash Location Report Complete
Northern Maine Development Commission is working with the Maine Department of Transportation to review high crash locations in northern Maine. High crash locations (HCLs) were identified by MaineDOT as being locations with eight (8) or more crashes and exceed the Critical Rate Factor (CRF) of 1.00 or greater within a three-year period. A highway location with a CRF greater than 1.00 has a frequency of crashes that is greater than the statewide average for similar locations. A CRF is a statistical measure to determine the “expected crash rate” as compared to similar intersections in the State of Maine. In this regard, the analysis considers both the number of crashes and exposure over a three-year period.

We are developing this report from a non-engineering standpoint. While there were thirty-one (31) HCLs in the region, staff focused on 21 that were not addressed in the earlier 2016 report. A quick review of the accident diagrams provided by MaineDOT, indicated that a majority of accidents in these new areas were vehicle/animal related. They were located in urban areas, such as Caribou’s South Main Street, to Castle Hill, Connor, and Caswell. Some had an animal reflector system located along the shoulders while others did not.

Staff spoke with Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Regional Biologist to see what projects or ideas he may have regarding these locations. IF&W has been working with landowners to either site animal feeding stations in appropriate locations or stop feeding all together. His conclusion was the same as ours, a better mowing and clearing of vegetation would be helpful to allow motorists a longer opportunity to see wildlife sooner and react. The other option is to install a seasonal or variable message sign to help reduce motorist indifference (seeing the same sign over and over and ignoring).

A copy of the draft report is located on NMDC website.
Photo caption:  High Crash Location in Connor.
PO BOX 779, CARIBOU, ME, O4736