Mobilize Maine springing into action

Posted May 26, 2010, at 9:17 p.m.

BANGOR — The principal players behind Mobilize Maine, a collaborative community effort formed last year to harness the area’s unique assets to spur future economic development, have always said they want to be about action, not just words.

At a stakeholders meeting on Wednesday, Mobilize Maine announced its vision statement for Greater Bangor and unveiled a series of short-term priorities to help transform the region.

“I know it seems like process to this point, but action steps already have been taken and more are coming,” said Eastern Maine Development Corp. President Michael Aube, one of the many driving forces behind Mobilize Maine.

The vision statement that was seen publicly for the first time reads:

“By 2020, we will ensure the region’s economy grows so that the people who live here enjoy a median household income equal to or greater than the national average.

“We will transform the region’s economy by building on our strengths in forest products, transportation, education and recreational tourism and by capturing new opportunities in biomedicine, research and technology, business conferencing and data transmission.

“By working with one another, our region’s economy will be innovative, vibrant and sustainable, fostering a robust and diverse community where people young and old choose to live, work and play.”

Since the vision statement is just words, Mobilize Maine unveiled seven distinct initiatives that members hope turn those words into action. Those initiatives range from the creation of a biomedical cluster that combines the assets of Eastern Maine Medical Center, the University of Maine and the Jackson Laboratory to the for-mation of an institute for new media and innovation.

Jake Ward of the University of Maine said biomedicine and biotechnology research makes sense because the area is already doing it. By partnering groups more and more grant possibilities open up, he said.

A new media and innovation institute would pool the New England School of Communications, Eastern Maine Community College and UMaine. It also would seek private sector buy-in. Mobilize Maine has even looked at reusing one of a handful of empty buildings in downtown Bangor to house such an institute.

Nancy Roberts, director of marketing for the New England School of Communications at Husson University, and Kerrie Tripp of the Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau announced a tourism initiative — the Penobscot Corridor — that is set to launch.

“We need to highlight why this region is different and why it might be attractive to those who live in Greater Portland or Greater Boston,” Roberts said.

Aube talked about the creation of a “Maine Center” or entertainment corridor in Bangor that would capitalize on the city’s revitalized waterfront, the investments of Hollywood Slots Hotel & Raceway and, perhaps, a brand new arena and civic center.

Jeff Spaulding, an attorney with Eaton Peabody, stressed the importance of angel investing vs. venture capitalist investing. Angel investors are generally wealthy individuals who provide start-up capital from business in exchange for ownership equity.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage, who attended the Mobilize Maine stakeholders meeting at the invitation of a member, said he was impressed with the progress made so far.

“One of the things I’m struck with is the momentum that builds when things like this happen,” he said. “But Augusta certainly needs to be friendlier in support of these types of efforts.”

More information about the goals and programs of Mobilize Maine area available online at: www.mobilizeeasternmaine.com

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