MILLINOCKET, Maine — High-speed Internet service would be a major attraction for businesses that can effectively be located anywhere in the world because they work on the information superhighway.
That’s a major reason why Millinocket officials are, for the first time in several years, pursuing economic development grants — specifically, grants to bring that service to town.
Town Council members speaking during their meeting Thursday said that they are working with ConnectME Authority, a state agency whose mission is to facilitate the universal availability of broadband access to all Mainers, and Our Katahdin, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization working to promote community and economic development in the Katahdin region.
Mike Osborne, vice-president Our Katahdin, said that the group has discussed expanding broadband access with East Millinocket and Millinocket officials. Group members hope to approach Medway officials shortly, he said Monday.
Our Katahdin has applied for grants for Millinocket from a national program called Cool & Connected, a pilot effort sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities, Osborne said.
The EPA advertises the program as employing “experts who will help community members develop strategies and an action plan for using planned or existing broadband service to promote smart, sustainable community development.”
Howland, Lincoln and Millinocket are among the few town governments in northern Penobscot County doing community development and economic development. The goal of all the divergent efforts, which include a list of economic and community development goals, several grants to apply for and several groups meeting to discuss the issue, is the same — the revitalization of a community beset by the impact of brutal job losses, officials said.
“We are moving forward,” council Chairman Richard Angotti Jr. said after the council meeting.
Millinocket’s progress, officials said, is happening simultaneously along several tracks:
— Town officials hope to apply for grants being offered by the MacKenzie family of East Millinocket, which is establishing a foundation that would provide grants for education and economic development efforts, Town Manager John Davis said.
East Millinocket native and Florida resident Gloria MacKenzie came forward with the winning $590.5 million Powerball ticket on June 5, 2013, collecting a lump sum of $370.9 million that totaled $278 million after taxes. She donated about $2 million from her Powerball winnings a year later to help replace the Schenck High School roof, among other repairs.
— The council goals committee is finalizing a list of objectives they hope to have ready for councilors to review at the council’s March 24 meeting. Councilor Jesse Dumais urged residents to attend the committee’s workshop, which he said is set for 4:30 p.m. Thursday, March 17, at the council chambers.
“It’s important to me that the business community also has skin in the game,” Dumais said after the meeting.
The list so far contains more than 100 of the town’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, plus recommendations from individual councilors. Anyone who wishes to catch up on past workshops or council meetings can see them at townhallstreams.com.
— Council members are interviewing marketing firms to help put together an economic development package and advertisements lauding Millinocket as a place to do business and recreate. The selection process likely will take a few more weeks, councilors said.
Six community groups have been meeting, some for more than a year, to pursue economic and community development projects. Osborne identified the groups as The Millinocket Industrial Development Committee, Katahdin Revitalization, The Katahdin Citizens Group, Our Katahdin, the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce and the Katahdin Tourism Partnership. Katahdin Revitalization was organized by Rep. Steve Stanley, D-Medway, and consists of East Millinocket, Medway and Millinocket residents.
The six groups’ participation “shows that people are getting involved. We don’t want each group to lose its identity,” Osborne said Monday. “It’s just a matter of ensuring that we are not marching in different directions.”