Madawaska native Sheila Jans has been busy since early Spring forming, planning and implementing specific stages for the Grand Plan Madawaska. In March of this year, Sheila Jans and former Madawaska Town Manager Ryan Pelletier announced the initiative of Grand Plan Madawaska.
Jans and Pelletier formed and managed a 12 member volunteer steering committee with efforts to synthesize and analyze information for this 10-year strategic plan. They managed to structure several community engagements involving close to 450 individuals who provided their thoughts and ideas on how to move Madawaska forward. The forms of engagement were through an interview process, internal organizational reviews in survey format (through town employees), focus groups, surveys and social media with the launch of the Grand Plan facebook page in April.
Close to 250 people completed the public survey this summer (online and hard copy). We received really fantastic ideas and feedback on what people loved about Madawaska, its strengths, and challenges, what they hope for its future, priorities, etc. The survey invited not only residents of Madawaska, but also communities in the St. John Valley and people who used to live/work in Madawaska but live elsewhere now. Some answers include (unedited):
What are Madawaska’s top STRENGTHS – what is really unique and special about this place?
- Bilingual, work ethic, US/Canada relationship
- True four seasons and activities for all of them. We don’t do a good enough job in getting the word out!
- It’s a really great place to raise a family because of how small the community is. I think that having a lot of businesses that are run by local people is also really unique because if you have an issue you know that it will be taken care of.
What kind of FUTURE do you want for Madawaska? What do you wish for?
- I want a Main Street that is vibrant and beautiful. I want a café that has really, really good coffee. I want to see more art everywhere. I want to see performances of musicians who celebrate traditional music and put a twist on it. I want to see more venues that sell work that is FROM HERE, made here. I want to see businesses thrive and invest in how they look, I wish for abundance.
- That Madawaska becomes a language center in Maine in the northeast as far as its expertise it has developed in all areas of French communications as a business.
- I see a big opportunity and future for Madawaska, especially if people are willing to relocate here and start a business. Real estate is affordable and available and I see lots of opportunities that could pop up.
What are ways to keep and attract young people to live and work in Madawaska?
- Keep listening to what they would like to see, what they have in mind and include them in visionary conversations.
- More IT and technical work. Environmental programs and learning center.
- I think we need to have a college of some kind here so young people are actually coming here. It would help with the diversity as well and it would help with our exposure as a town that has intellectual offerings not just blue-collar work
This strategy will consider development over 10 years but will be a more focused 5-year time period. To include an overview of key findings and takeaways, statements for a town vision, values, and mission, a strategic roadmap that outlines the goals, strategies, responsibilities, and timeframe for implementation.
The aim is to provide a draft of Grand Plan Madawaska by late October/early November and made available for public review. Stay tuned…
FMI- Contact Suzie Paradis, Madawaska Economic & Community Development Director 207-728-3612.