Four Maine communities gain business-friendly designation, while one falls short

Posted Nov. 27, 2012, at 6:02 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — State officials on Tuesday said four communities have received the “Certified Business-Friendly” designation during the latest round of approvals.

The four latest communities chosen for the recognition are Ellsworth, Fairfield, Kennebunk and Topsham. Their addition brings to 18 the total number of Maine communities participating in the program.

The state in October announced it was considering five communities for the designation. Of those five, Lubec was the only one that did not meet the criteria for the designation.

Certification is determined by a team of public and private economic development experts, which reviews each municipality’s application and judges it against various criteria, including customer service, involvement and collaboration with the business community, public input and licensing and permitting, according to the Department of Economic and Community Development.

Drew Morris, spokesman for the DECD, acknowledged that Lubec did not succeed this time around in earning the certification, but was optimistic about its prospects during future rounds.

“I know DECD Commissioner George Gervais had a great talk with the town and is encouraged that Lubec will reapply, hopefully in the next round,” Morris said. “Lubec has a well-established Revolving Loan Fund with great examples on how it is utilized effectively. The town has in place other community programs, and we’re certain that as they provide examples of how those programs help businesses, they’ll be successful in receiving certification.”

Morris added that it’s the program’s goal to have every Maine community be certified as business friendly, and that one of the benefits of the application process is that communities are prompted to look critically at their business development efforts.

Calls to the Lubec town office late Tuesday afternoon went unanswered.

The state offered the following details about the four communities that will receive the designation:

• Ellsworth, which was applying for the second time, was recognized “for its significant efforts to proactively address business concerns regarding traffic congestion issues,” as well as the programs it offers related to skill enhancement and workforce development.

• Fairfield was rewarded for its efforts to network and collaborate “with regional economic and community development entities, such as the Central Maine Growth Council, on a broad range of development initiatives.”

• Kennebunk, which also was applying after previously failing to pass muster, apparently impressed the judges with its “active and involved Economic Development Committee” that used approximately $2 million in Community Development Program Grant funds for infrastructure and facade enhancements.

• Topsham received certification because it has a “full-time economic and community development director and its own economic development corporation,” as well as “its proactive use of TIFs to retain and recruit businesses.”

Communities deemed business-friendly are presented with a certificate, a DOT-sanctioned “Open for Business” road sign, recognition on the DECD’s website, and become a key part of Maine’s business attraction strategy, according to the DECD.

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