For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - State Rep. Karen Foster says Augusta richly deserves the "business friendly" certification it received on June 6 at a State House ceremony. Augusta was one of nine Maine municipalities to earn the official distinction.
"This certification is quite a feather in Augusta's cap," said Rep. Foster, a first-term legislator who represents part of Augusta as well as Vassalboro and Windsor. "There's a lot going on in this city and there's a whole new attitude about business development."
Nineteen cities and towns applied for a "business friendly" designation in a program administered by the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD). Fewer than half earned the title after completing an extensive application that scored them in a number of categories, such as licensing and permitting, customer service and their involvement with local businesses.
One section, for example, asked applicants to "outline how collaboration within the community with businesses, chambers of commerce, development organizations, etc., has contributed to increasing the 'time is money' approach to business."
In presenting the award to Augusta, DECD Commissioner George Gervais said the city "has taken significant steps to streamline the entire process for economic development, from planning to permits." Maine's capital city, he added, "has also made great use of TIF funds to make investments in downtown infrastructure."
Mike Duguay, Augusta's director of Community and Economic Development, accepted the award on behalf of the city. Rep. Foster said Augusta's business-friendly certification is a credit to Mr. Duguay. "He has been a tremendous asset to the city," she said. "But this economic renaissance in Augusta has been a team effort. From the city manager and the mayor to the City Council, and from the planning board to code enforcement, the city is much more business-friendly."
Rep. Foster says that when she began her seven-year stretch on the Augusta City Council in 1999, the Marketplace Mall on Civic Center Drive was only in its first phase, with such stores as Walmart, Staples and Barnes & Noble. Today, the complex has numerous major retailers and restaurants. A newer retail center, the Augusta Crossings Mall behind the Senator Inn, boasts Best Buy, Target, Lowe's, Pet Smart, A.C. Moore and other national names.
Rep. Foster also noted that new businesses have moved to the business park on Civic Center Drive, and that the nearby Commerce Center, with professional offices, is doing well. "It's all part of the success story that brings people and employment opportunities to Augusta," she said.
In addition, she said, the city has done a lot of work to revitalize downtown Augusta while preserving its historic integrity, through the Augusta Downtown Association. "I'd like to see more done downtown, but overall, we have seen a business renaissance and a city government with much more of a can-do attitude in encouraging businesses to move to Augusta," she said.
Rep. Foster also praised the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce for its work in encouraging business development. "They have been instrumental in this evolution," she said. ""Time after time, they have come before the city council or the planning board to promote a new business that wanted to move to Augusta."
Augusta will receive a large wooden sign reading "Certified Business Friendly" that will be provided by the Maine Department of Transportation and installed at an appropriate site. Cardboard replicas were handed out at the State House award ceremony.
Other municipalities that received official certification were Bath, Biddeford, Saco, Brewer, Bucksport, Guilford, Lincoln and Sanford. ###
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