DECD Announces Four New "Certified Business-Friendly" Communities

Media Contact: Doug Ray; 207-624-9802

Belfast, Caribou, Hermon and S. Portland Join Growing List of “Certified Business-Friendly” Communities

AUGUSTA – Four more communities across Maine have received “business-friendly” certification from the Department of Economic and Community Development thanks to their continued efforts in being a partner with the private sector by making it easier to do business within their borders.

Belfast, Caribou, Hermon and South Portland join 20 other Maine communities in receiving the state’s “Certified Business-Friendly Community” designation. To be certified “business-friendly,” multiple areas of criteria are considered, including customer service, business involvement and collaboration, input from the public, and licensing and permitting.

“The addition of these four communities to an already impressive list further strengthens my belief that Maine is a great state in which to do business,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “These communities lead by example and have found ways to improve their own services and processes for the benefit of job creators. This is the kind of proactive approach that Maine embraces to attract and retain businesses.”

A team of public and private economic development experts reviews each application to determine eligibility in the program. Some business-friendly initiatives the review committee highlighted for each community recently certified includes:

City of Belfast • Effective utilization of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, as well as state and federal programs, to improve infrastructure in support of an improved business climate. • The establishment of a “Brownfields Assessment Program” to assist in assessing environmental contamination of former commercial or industrial properties being considered for redevelopment.
• The creation of a full-time economic development director position in 2010 who has since strongly coordinated with other business-oriented organizations, including Our Town Belfast, Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce and the Belfast Creative Coalition. • Significant efforts that have been made to attract and retain businesses by reducing licensing and permitting costs, and shortening the decision-making timeframe.

City of Caribou • Efforts that have been made to streamline licensing and permitting processes to reduce turn-around time. • Effective utilization of the Caribou Economic Growth Council Loan Program. • Support of the active Downtown Development Program, which is part of Downtown TIF District assisting with facade improvements, infrastructure improvements, economic development and marketing. • Strong collaboration with the Caribou Economic Growth Council, Caribou Area Chamber of Commerce, Leaders Encouraging Aroostook Development (LEAD) and Aroostook Partnership for Progress (APP).

Town of Hermon • Showing strong local initiative through the completion and adoption of a master plan for the town’s village area. • The town’s notably few required business permits and licenses. • The creation of the “Cost Sharing Program” that promotes public infrastructure improvements, and encourages new industrial and commercial jobs. • Being a founding member of Bangor Regional Development Alliance (BRDA), which seeks to attract out-of-state investment to the region. • Development of an aggressive and effective advertising program, and launch of a new website promoting the community with an emphasis on economic development.

City of South Portland • The city’s impressive TIF track record (13 TIFs in total) in addition to its 17 Credit Enhancement Agreements, which have generated more than $74 million for public infrastructure improvements, credit enhancement payments back to businesses and economic development. • Being the first community in the state to establish a Transportation TIF District to assist in management and maintenance of the city’s full-service bus service and a Transit TIF to help expand transit services. • The utilization of the city’s “set-aside” account funded from Cumberland County’s Community Development Block Grant Program for economic development, public infrastructure improvements and the establishment of a housing revolving loan fund. • Active partnership with the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Community Chamber of Commerce. • Strong collaboration with Southern Maine Community College in the areas of workforce development and training.

“The communities that take the time to go through the application process, take a critical look at all areas of their business strategy and examine the ways in which their community interacts with businesses, these are the communities that see an immediate success from this program,” said DECD Commissioner George Gervais. “And if this certification reminds the communities to ask the question – ‘Is this program or initiative we’re about to undertake truly business-friendly?’ – then the certification is truly working for them.”

Since the LePage Administration launched the program in March of 2012, a total of 20 Maine communities have received the business-friendly status. Communities named business friendly are presented with a certificate, two MaineDOT road signs and become a key part of Maine’s business attraction strategy.