DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Imagine creating a large hotel and conference center that would provide training opportunities for people in the hospitality industry, educate them about the state, help develop tourism businesses and create up to 100 jobs.
That vision is one being investigated by Four Directions Development Corp. of Orono, with help from the University of Maine’s Center for Tourism and Research Development; Coastal Enterprises Inc., a private, nonprofit community development corporation working to create economic opportunities in the state; and Eastern Maine Development Corp.
Donna Loring, who works for Four Directions Development and is coordinating the project, confirmed Wednesday that a cultural-training-tourism center for Maine is being studied.
“We’re just sort of looking around, studying things. We’re not looking for a specific number of acreage or anything” at this time or a specific location, Loring said.
Piscataquis County commissioners learned from project officials Tuesday that Piscataquis County is one of several sites in Maine being eyed for the proposed multimillion-dollar training center.
Thomas Kittredge, executive director of the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, said meetings have been held on what he called the Wabanaki Tourism Project, which would be a hotel-conference center with environmentally friendly aspects.
But Loring cautioned Wednesday that the project is “very, very preliminary.” While it has been called the Wabanaki project — Wabanaki is an American Indian word meaning “people of the dawn” — Loring said it doesn’t mean it is a tribal effort. She said the corporation, a community development financial institute, would be the project developer. No public money is being spent on the feasibility study, she said.
Loring envisions that in addition to the hotel and conference center, the facility would include a training laboratory for both tribal and nontribal members in the hospitality industry and would provide training for tourism business development.
The springboard for the feasibility study has been talk over the years about the infrastructure needs for tourism in northern Maine and rural areas, according to Loring. She said when she was in the Legislature a number of years ago, there was a lot of talk about economic development and tourism.
“It seems like wherever I went, tourism was a big subject,” she said. Loring said those thoughts and concerns never left her mind.
Loring said the project is in the concept stage and no decision would be made until the feasibility study was completed. She said more information about the project would be available in a couple of months when the study is completed.