CARIBOU, Maine — As they continue to plan for a huge influx of visitors for the 2014 World Acadian Congress, organizers are coordinating efforts to ensure cultural and economic growth well beyond the event.
The World Acadian Congress is held every five years in different regions populated by Acadians. In 2014, it will be staged in northern Maine, northwestern New Brunswick and the Temiscouata region of Quebec from Aug. 8 to 24. This will be the first time in the event’s history that it will span two countries.
In the past, the congress has attracted more than 50,000 visitors to regions including Louisiana and the Acadian Peninsula in New Brunswick.
The congress typically features more than 300 events, including family reunions, regional celebrations and sporting and cultural events. Hotels, restaurants, stores and other facilities typically see a significant influx of revenue.
During a meeting in Caribou on Dec. 14, two of the event’s top officials estimated the economic impact of the World Acadian Congress on the region at $55 million, but they also spoke about potential ways to forge business, economic and tourism partnerships that could last long after the 2014 event is over.
“We want to continue past 2014 and leave the Acadia of the Lands and Forest territory with a lasting economic legacy,” said Francie Landry, economic development coordinator for the congress.
Landry and Jason Parent, the World Acadian Congress’ Maine international president, said that organizers have already capitalized on ways to attract and tie people to the region through a contingent of family reunions that will be taking place during the event. Planners have stressed that the reunions and activities will function as a way for participants to reconnect with their past and solidify bonds that could bring them back to the area in the future.
Parent said that organizers see the entire event as “more than just a flash in the pan.”
In order to make that happen, organizers have developed a strategic plan, a summary of which was presented Friday to the board of the Aroostook Partnership for Progress.
The partnership is a regional public-private initiative that works to market the region nationally and internationally, to conduct regional research and to coordinate efforts to influence business and government issues that impact economic growth and development.
The event organizers’ strategic plan calls for 10 recommendations that will do such things as support the creation of a free trade zone between Canada and the U.S., promote businesses in the participating regions and also create common promotional tools. Organizers also are looking to promote the congress to targeted segments and initiate pre-congress events.
Alain Ouellette, planning and development division director at Northern Maine Development Commission in Caribou, is an active participant in the WAC economic development work group. He also attended the APP briefing.
“Our region is proof positive that for any economic development initiative to flourish, we must find ways to expand opportunities by creating a more open and collaborative environment with our neighbors in New Brunswick and Quebec,” he said.
As another major economic development force for Aroostook County, the NMDC is also prepping for the 2014 event by working to develop cross-border economic development partnerships that hopefully will continue for years after the WAC is finished.
Bob Clark, executive director of NMDC, said that the group wants to have a legacy as a result of the congress that will do such things as promote cross-border trade and continue to build relationships with business and organizations in Maine, New Brunswick and Quebec. The group is also hoping to forge unique joint tourism development and promotions on such things as a “two-nation vacation” concept. Another goal is building joint transportation planning projects and educational opportunities, according to Clark.
During the Dec. 14 meeting, Landry said that she also will continue getting business people from both sides of the border together to explore the economic benefits of the event.
Opening ceremonies will take place on Aug. 8, 2014, in New Brunswick, and Acadian National Day will be held on Aug. 15 in Maine. Closing ceremonies will be held on Aug. 24 in Canada.
Even though the festivities are more than 18 months away, Parent said the excitement is already building.
“We are already seeing bookings in this area,” he said.
More information on the World Acadian Congress can be found online at www.cma2014.com.