News Column

Maine: 6 Criteria for 'Business Friendly Community'

June 11, 2012

Terry Karkos

Selectmen in Rumford, Me., learned Thursday night that the town wasn't denied state certification on being a business friendly community as stated Wednesday in a Portland Press Herald story.

Instead, Town Manager Carlo Puiia told the board the state asked Rumford to address six items to get the certification from the Department of Economic and Community Development's Certified Business Friendly Community Program.

Hoping to attract businesses, the board voted 4-0 in mid-March to apply for recognition as a Governor's 2012 Business Friendly Community.

"I am a bit disappointed in how this article states certain towns were 'denied' the designation sought," Puiia said of the story, 'Nine Maine cities and towns named business-friendly.'

The story's last paragraph states, "Falmouth, Gorham, Cumberland, Houlton, Kennebunk, Pittsfield, Presque Isle, Rumford, South Portland and Waterboro all applied, but were denied the certification."

Puiia told selectmen that on May 31, he received a letter from DECD Commissioner George C. Gervais advising him that before Rumford can be certified, town officials need to remedy six criteria in Rumford's application.

"Unfortunately, the town of Rumford has a few items that need to be addressed in order to qualify," Puiia said.

According to the letter from Gervais, the program's Review Team told Puiia to address the following items so Rumford could be certified as a business friendly community.

Puiia read them to the board, saying, "The six things they felt we need to do to become certified" are:

--127 day turnaround is significant -- make efforts to streamline and shorten approval/denial.

--Collaboration indicated with no real specifics or examples.

--No details on workforce training initiatives to provide skilled workforce.

--No information regarding town's efforts to regularly meet with businesses; establish a mechanism where town/businesses meet on a regular basis to interact, address problems, become proactive instead of reactive.

--Establish clear protocol, roles and responsibilities of town and River Valley Growth Council and Chamber regarding economic development. Who is the point of contact to provide business with direction?

--Use of form letters not helpful/information as we would like to see specifics from businesses the community has assisted in some way, largest employer, etc.

Puiia said he believes the first criteria is an ordinance citing and said he would look into that.

"To help us address these issues," Puiia said he spoke with Glen Holmes, director of the Western Maine Economic Development Council.

Holmes, he said, is drafting recommendations for Rumford and will attend the board's next meeting on Thursday, June 21, "to explain this to us."

"So I'm feeling fairly confident that although we didn't make it through the first round, it sounds like there is a lot of good that I just read, of things we just need to improve," Puiia said.

"There are a lot of good things that come out of this letter that tell us we really are a community that can be certified as a 'business friendly community.' So, we'll work on that."

Source: (c) 2012 the Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)

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