PORTLAND, Maine — The southern Maine towns of Gray and New Gloucester hope a prize worth about $17,000 will help attract new businesses, copying a model used for two years in Biddeford.

The Gray-New Gloucester Economic Development Corp. earlier this month began accepting proposals from businesses that may want to move to either town. As for the kind of business, development group’s president Tracy Scheckel said, it’s wide open.

“If you ask each member of the development corporation what their ideal business would be, you’ll get everything from a coffee shop to a brew pub to a Gap store,” Scheckel said.

That’s partly because, between the two towns, “there’s everything from really rural agriculture to Gray’s downtown village.”

The Grow GNG project is the second recent effort for a nonprofit economic development group to attract businesses through a prize package offering, as the group Heart of Biddeford did for two years.

The contest in Gray offers businesses up to $10,000 in a forgivable loan for the best proposal to launch a new operation by May 15, 2017. The group raised the money by selling ads for a magazine it has published during the last two years.

The prize includes other support and guidance finding a rental space and what it says are other essentials for business startups.

Scheckel said the group is open to entirely new startups and to businesses from all over looking to expand in either town and employ at least two full-time employees. A new business does not have to meet that requirement immediately and could employ two full-time employees by the end of three years.

Scheckel said a rise in rental demand and pressure on commercial space in the Portland area hasn’t yet rippled out to Gray and New Gloucester, which are located roughly halfway between Portland and Lewiston-Auburn. But she said she expects that will happen.

Scheckel said Friday the group has not yet received any proposals for the contest, which has a submission deadline of June 30. Requirements for business plan proposals and other details are available for the contest at gngdc.com.

Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.