HOWLAND, Maine — Businesses looking to move to the former tannery building site will have a good idea of what they are getting into, and a better chance of getting a loan, thanks to a federal grant the town just received, officials said Tuesday.
The $37,500 Rural Business Enterprise Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will pay for a marketing study that will provide prospective investors data including traffic counts and the businesses the area probably needs most. The town received notice of the award late last week, Town Manager Tracey Hutton said.
“Usually a small business that needs to get a loan has to provide one [a marketing study] to a bank,” Hutton said Tuesday, “so it’s a feather in the cap at the tannery site that it will be something we will have done already.”
Formerly the site of the town’s largest employer, the tannery building complex off Route 155 opposite the town athletic complex was razed in 2012 after decades of effort at redevelopment. Town leaders have called the large site near the town’s center the key to revitalizing the small town’s economy.
The tannery site is part of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust’s plan to build a fish bypass, seed some tannery land and dig a channel for the bypass in a project designed to open nearly 1,000 miles of habitat to Atlantic salmon, alewives and other sea-run fish now blocked from migrating upriver. The trust’s plan is to bypass the Howland dam and remove two others.
As part of the Howland project, town officials hope to develop once-contaminated land not occupied by the fish bypass.
The site’s ready access to Routes 2, 6, 155 and Interstate 95 make it an ideal site for businesses, Hutton said. She will seek requests for proposals from marketing companies within the next few months. No date has been set.