Fishermen get connected thanks to bank’s donation

Posted Feb. 01, 2011, at 10:14 p.m.

STONINGTON, Maine — Area fishermen now have access to the Internet and computer assistance through the Penobscot East Resource Center thanks to a gift of computers from Bar Harbor Bank and Trust.

Liz Veazie, branch relationship manager for the bank, recently delivered seven computers and monitors to PERC, where they have been installed in the Fishermen’s Room and public education space and are ready for use.

“Bar Harbor Bank and Trust feels it is important to give back to the community where we work,” Veazie said in a press release. “The fishing industry on the island is very important, and we want to support it, and we are glad the computers will be used by local fishermen.”

A few fishermen already have been using those computers. According to Carla Geunther, PERC’s community coordinator, the main use will be to help lobstermen and their families access online information they need to complete requirements for USDA Trade Adjustment Assistance.

“Right now, the primary use of the computers is with the TAA for the lobster fleet,” Guenther said Tuesday. “TAA offers some online options for fishermen to complete a lot of the requirements for the program.”

The TAA program is using federal stimulus funds to provide eligible lobstermen with business management training in a series of workshops and counseling for business plan development over a three-year period. TAA orientations also may be done at TAA locations throughout the state, but for many applicants who do not want to travel and who do not have Internet access at home, the Penobscot East Resource Center computers provide a local option, Guenther said.

In addition to providing the computer and Internet access, Guenther said, there would be someone on-site to work with fishermen and their families on the TAA processes.

“We really appreciate this generous and timely donation by the bank,” Guenther said. “We can now offer computer assistance on seven computers where fishermen, their wives and sternmen who have applied for the TAA program can ‘virtually’ attend the required TAA orientation and five hours of workshops online. A family can now attend different workshops simultaneously without having to leave the island.”

PERC is developing a TAA workshop schedule, which will be announced as soon as it is available.

Statewide, about 220 of the 2,250 fishermen who applied for the TAA program have gone through the orientation. Two of those fishermen did the program online at the center.

The Penobscot East Resource Center Fishermen’s Room is already open and available to fishermen from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, and fishermen also are using the computers for other purposes. Fishermen are coming in early to check the NOAA weather forecasts, Guenther said, and shrimp fishermen have used the computers to get updates from the Department of Marine Resources on shrimp landings to see how close they are to the total allowable catch.

Although the focus initially has been on the fishermen because of the TAA program, Guenther said PERC hopes to offer programs to the wider community. They are developing plans to offer a basic computer introduction course this winter and to add other courses in the future.

“The bank gave us these computers so they would be used,” Guenther said. “This is another way to bring people into our new building. We have a lot of great space and we want it to be used as a community facility.”

Questions or suggestions for the workshops can be addressed to Guenther or Eaton at 367-2708.

rhewitt@bangordailynews.com

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