CARIBOU, Maine — Aroostook County leaders are behind a statewide initiative to provide planners with more detailed data and information about their regions in order to promote growth in Maine’s 16 counties.
Members of the Aroostook Goal Setting Action Team for Mobilize Maine held their first meeting earlier this month at the Northern Maine Development Commission.
“We had a great deal of success at the first meeting,” Walt Elish, who is involved with the initiative in The County, said recently. Elish also is the president and chief executive officer of Aroostook Partnership for Progress, another economic development group in the region.
“It was very enlightening to be there and discuss what is going on in The County and talk about what more we can do to boost the economy in this area,” Elish said.
The Mobilize Maine drive was announced in April by Gov. John Baldacci along with officials from FairPoint Communications, the Department of Economic and Community Development, the Quality of Place Council and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.
Mobilize Maine provides regional data and growth prediction information to economic development professionals throughout the state. Officials say the initiative will point out unique assets and the potential of each region, and focus on the regions’ strengths and advantages for economic development.
It is being financed in part by FairPoint Communications. A grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the Northern Maine Development Commission will fund a portion of The County’s project.
FairPoint Communications has commissioned consultant ViTAL Economy to prepare an economic development model. The modeling tool organizes Maine into six regions and provides economic development officials with information on each area’s economic status. The tool also can forecast the impact of future economic and community development strategies in each region.
In Aroostook, the team is analyzing regional and state data, demographics and trends as they relate to the regional and state economy. The team will use the information in conjunction with that gained from using the modeling tool to set measurable goals.
The Mobilize Maine project calls for interpreting data in seven core areas. Elish said that team members have analyzed population, labor participation and average wage data. The group also is interpreting data on per capita income, Internet subscriptions and education levels.
Michael Eisensmith, Northern Maine Development Commission’s economic development director, said that after the action team completes its tasks, the gathered data and more will be used to decide on goals.
After that, a meeting will be held to share with the larger community what was learned and a strategic plan will be drafted to move forward.
Elish pointed out that members of the action team consist of more than just those who work within the economic development spectrum each day. The group includes town managers, a hospital CEO, business owners, artists, bankers and more.
“A number of the team members are from the private sector, and I think that one of the key elements of this is going to be the involvement of the private sector,” said Elish. “In Aroostook County, the private sector already is heavily invested in economic development. We need to continue that and use the support of the private sector to help promote growth and development.”
Elish said he is optimistic about what the new initiative will do for The County.
“I believe this initiative will generate additional prospects for Aroostook County that have a good opportunity for success,” he said. “We are going to use what is learned to target businesses that are needed here. Once we target them, we will show them why Aroostook County is right for them.”
Additional meetings are scheduled in the coming months.