MILBRIDGE, Maine — Sunrise County Economic Council held its annual meeting Wednesday night, giving staff members a chance to pat themselves on the back while acknowledging other key players in moving Washington County forward.
SCEC could almost be called “the little engine that could” for its impressive track record. During the past five years, SCEC has leveraged more than $270 million in investment that helped create and retain hundreds of jobs.
Executive Director Harold Clossey was quick to tell more than 90 people gathered at The Pines in Milbridge that SCEC could not accomplish such development without collaboration and cooperation from agencies and governments throughout the county.
“When we all work together, we are the best we can realize,” Clossey said.
He said SCEC was instrumental for part of more than $80 million in projects and initiatives now in the works in the county.
These include $1.5 million for the Maine Marine Energy Center in Eastport, which will create 75 jobs; $50 million and 300 construction jobs for northern and coastal Washington County wind farm projects; an $8 million Port of Eastport expansion; $24 million and 30 jobs for other manufacturers; and loan packages that leveraged nearly $1 million and retained 32 full-time and eight part-time jobs this year.
SCEC was also a partner in helping to secure more than $4.75 million in grants for Axiom Technologies to increase county broadband service to 90 percent.
The group also distributed more than $68,300 last year in scholarships for work force training and career advancement.
Keynote speaker John Ferland of Ocean Renewable Power Co. of Eastport and Portland praised SCEC’s efforts.
“You are showing great leadership statewide,” Ferland said. “You are looking at regional solutions and collaborations and the rest of the state should take notice. We love doing business in Washington County.”
He went on to explain his company’s tidal power project, calling Eastport, “The Kitty Hawk of tidal energy.” Ferland said that in the last 18 months, ORPC has invested more than $2 million in Eastport, and “there’s more coming.”
He said money would continue to be spent on contractors, lodging, fuel and marine supplies.
“This is an industry that fits well with a waterfront economy. This is a great opportunity for our young citizens to pursue careers in renewable energy,” he said.
After the presentation, Clossey said, “There is a lot going on in Washington County right now. It is not only about ORPC, wind power, natural gas, but about the energy of our people.”
Betsy Fitzgerald, manager of Washington County and former town manager of Machias, was named SCEC Partner of the Year for her tireless work behind the scenes in economic development.
“I’m shocked and awed, but not speechless,” she said, with her trademark sense of humor. “Thank you.”
Several other awards were presented at the event, including acknowledging Skip Rogers, outgoing chairman who has served since 2004, and incoming chairman Josh Bragg.
Outgoing board member Ed Plissey, who also has served since 2004, also was honored.