Calais, Baileyville leaders seek regional economic development effort

Posted Jan. 31, 2014, at 1:32 p.m.

CALAIS, Maine — Elected leaders of Calais and Baileyville appear committed to embark on a joint effort to bring more economic development to the region and will extend an invitation to officials in Eastport to join them.

Members of the Calais City Council and Baileyville Town Council met jointly Thursday evening, their second such session in about a year. The two governing bodies had no agenda, but the discussion quickly turned to economic development.

“Banding together, we can make a lot more happen than going it alone,” Tim Call, chairman of the Baileyville Town Council, told the group.

Leaders from both communities acknowledged their dependence on each other and the synergy between them. Baileyville is home to the huge Woodland Pulp mill, which provides jobs for many throughout the region; Calais has a service-centered economy where residents of Baileyville shop. Any additional investment in the mill would benefit retailers in Calais, noted Baileyville Town Manager Rick Bronson; by the same token, any new retail businesses in Calais would provide more opportunities for residents of Baileyville.

“This place needs a drawing card,” said Call, a business that will attract people to the region, such as an amusement park.

Leaders must take economic development efforts “to the next level,” urged Call. “Why would anybody stop here?”

The key to economic development is tourism, said Calais Councilor Art Mingo. “It has to start with families,” he said, attracting young families to visit the region.

Members of the group also acknowledged Woodland Pulp’s tentative plans to invest in new facilities. Baileyville is competing for that investment, noted Bronson, and the community’s Town Council is actively cooperating with company officials in order to help secure it. “We may not succeed,” said Bronson, but it won’t be for lack of trying.

Call pressed for urgency in a cooperative effort to increase economic development, and Bronson suggested an approach. “We have to act,” said Call. “We’ve really got to be serious about this,” he added, and meet on a regular, more frequent basis to develop ideas and strategies for economic development. Bronson suggested the real work would have to be done by a smaller core group of leaders from each community that is involved.

By the end of the one-hour meeting, there was a consensus to meet again in February and to invite the city councilors from Eastport and perhaps other leaders from the region.

The group also discussed the need to create more political support for the Passamaquoddy Tribe to obtain legislative approval for a gambling venue; the tribe is eyeing a location in Calais if it wins approval.

The two governing bodies also discussed the feasibility of teaming with the tribe to help develop a water bottling plant, an idea the tribe has pursued in recent years but has been unable to advance because of a lack of federal funds.

 

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