The Katahdin Area Recovery and Expansion committee will meet next week to discuss having a worker from a regional economic development agency come to the Katahdin region once a week to stimulate business there, Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said Thursday.
Millinocket’s Town Council and Conlogue want a representative from the Eastern Maine Development Corp. to visit the region weekly from Feb. 1 to June 30, 2010. The representative’s efforts also would help the region qualify for a federal grant that would pay a development agent as much as $500,000 for up to five years to improve the Katahdin region’s economy, Conlogue said.
“We would want somebody to come in one day a week to meet with area businesses and then hopefully, if that was successful, that might be a lever to get a grant that would help us more,” Conlogue said Thursday.
EMDC is contracted to serve the region’s business needs on an as-needed basis. Under the proposed arrangement, the EMDC representative would go into East Millinocket and Medway as well as Millinocket, Conlogue said.
The EMDC agent would be paid with a portion of the $75,000 that Brookfield Renewable Power Inc. pays Millinocket annually as compensation for the Brookfield-owned mill’s Sept. 2, 2008, shutdown. Conlogue estimated the amount would likely be $12,000 to $15,000.
Eastern Maine Development Corp. is a nonprofit organization that has been providing assistance to businesses and community leaders for 40 years in the region, according to its Web site, emdc.org. The organization has been working with a core service territory of more than 15,000 square miles, six counties, and a population base of more than 324,000 people.
“It is virtually a no-risk proposition,” Conlogue said. “We hope it would work because we would need data from the representative to support the [$500,000] grant.”
But a subcommittee for KARE, which handles grant applications, already has recommended against paying the agent to come to the region, believing that the as-needed arrangement is sufficient, said Mark Scally, chairman of the East Millinocket Board of Selectmen.
A previous vote by the full KARE committee defeated the EMDC visitation plan by one vote despite a flood of Millinocket Town Council members attending that meeting. Under KARE rules, Katahdin selectmen and councilors can vote on KARE plans.
Most representatives from East Millinocket and Medway have balked at Millinocket’s proposal and have quietly expressed resentment at Millinocket’s push, saying that its town officials had in effect tried an end run around the committee whose job it was to screen such ideas.
“This is what the committee is for,” Scally said Friday. “If you start tampering with it, then why have it at all?”
Millinocket officials angered their neighbors in October 2008 when at their behest, the state designated their town as the Katahdin region’s new economic development agency and gave Millinocket the first $75,000 payment — before, according to leaders from East Millinocket and Medway, the region’s other towns knew of it. The KARE committee, which oversees the $75,000, was formed as a result.
Millinocket officials believe that the economic development representative would help the region’s economy to grow without cost to the towns. The other towns’ officials don’t deny that, but believe that the committee has had several successes already and is poised for more.
The KARE meeting will be held at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 30, at the East Millinocket Municipal Building.