Gov. Janet Mills speaks during the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce's Early Bird Breakfast in Bangor on Dec. 18., 2019. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

Janet Mills announced on Wednesday a new initiative that would bring millions in grant money to Maine communities. Called the Working Communities Challenge, the collaboration between the Boston Fed and the state of Maine aims to support local teams who “work together to improve economic outcomes for all people in Maine’s towns, cities and rural communities,” according to a press release.

Smaller cities and rural communities across Maine can apply for $2.7 million in funds to address local economic issues that affect lower-income residents. Successful teams will address economic growth and reduce inequity tied to race, ethnicity, and other aspects of identity and background.

Maine is the latest New England state to be included in the program, following Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Vermont. The initiative is built on Boston Fed research that examined why many of New England’s small cities have struggled economically over the past half-century. Successful communities have something in common — leaders from private business, public and nonprofit sectors who collaborate on a shared, long-term vision for their community, according to Boston Fed economists.

Greg Powell, chairman of the board of trustees for the Harold Alfond Foundation, which is supporting the initiative, said the work has great potential to advance economic opportunity and to spark creativity and teamwork across Maine.

“We think adapting this cross-sector model will offer important lessons for economic and social well-being in different types of communities across the state,” Powell told the governor’s office.