PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A cache of money to fund a commission created to promote economic development in the region is now on its way.
President Barack Obama has signed a federal appropriations bill that allocates $1.5 million for the Northern Border Regional Commission.
The NBRC was created in 2007 in legislation sponsored by 2nd District Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine. The commission is charged with investing in the economic development of the most economically distressed areas of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and parts of upstate New York.
This is the first time the commission has been funded.
The commission’s core functions are to assess the needs and assets of the region, develop economic and infrastructure strategies, and provide grants to support development and encourage private investment. The commission also will work with states and local areas to develop model development legislation and encourage inter-state cooperation.
Approximately 40 percent of the funding will be used to develop transportation, public and telecommunications infrastructure. Much of the remainder will be used for distressed counties and “isolated areas of distress.”
Funding for the NBRC will support grants to create jobs by investing in a number of critical areas, including infrastructure improvements, high-speed Internet access, health care and renewable energy production.
In a news release, Michaud said the commission “will help our most economically distressed areas by funding projects that will create jobs and promote business development.”
The region under the commission’s purview includes 12 of Maine’s 16 counties (all but York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc and Lincoln), as well as 24 counties across northern New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.
Michaud said the NBRC’s approach to regional economic development is based on the Appalachian Regional Commission model.
“This effective public-private partnership model has enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support because it works and because it has been a good investment for the American taxpayer,” he said. “For example, in fiscal year 2005, each dollar of ARC funding leveraged $2.57 in other public funding and $8.46 in private funding. This represents a tremendous return on investment.”
With Obama’s signature on the new law, Michaud said he looks forward to the help the commission can give.
“The economic development commission will now be able to begin working for the people of Maine and the northern border region,” Michaud continued. “If there was ever a time to get this commission off the ground it is now.”