March 29, 2012

Towns throughout the county will have a chance to be “open for business,” under the 2012 Certified Business Friendly Community Program, recently introduced by Governor Paul LePage.

The goal of the program is to encourage economic development in communities throughout Maine, announced LePage on March 6 at the Blaine House.

“The idea is to get communities to look at how they deal with businesses, and to make sure that we are doing the best we can to promote business and to work with businesses at the local government level,” said Glen Holmes, director, Western Maine Economic Development Council.

LePage is currently seeking applications from communities, chambers of commerce, development authorities, trade organizations, businesses, or interested individuals, according to Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD).

The first Business Friendly Community applications are due on April 6.

According to Holmes, the certification identifies communities that are business-friendly, which could affect a business’ decision to relocate.

The communities that choose to participate in the program, said Holmes, are required to submit an application to DECD, which will then be reviewed and scored by a volunteer scoring panel in May.

The review team will be looking at several items in order to determine if a community is “business friendly.” Items include looking at customer service, business involvement and collaboration, input from the public, and licensing and permitting, said Holmes.

Each community will be evaluated on an individual basis.

“If it meets the criteria, then that town will be certified as ‘business friendly,’ and they will be given an ‘open for business’ sign,” said Holmes.

He said that it’s similar to the “open for business” sign recently unveiled by Governor LePage, which is attached to the “Welcome to Maine” sign along Interstate 95 in Kittery near the New Hampshire border.

“The overall goal of the program,” said Holmes, “is to get businesses to understand that the state of Maine is taking very seriously the desire to be friendly towards businesses and to work with them to create economic development.”

All of the communities that become certified under the program will be recognized by the Governor in May. Certified Business Friendly Communities will also receive recognition on the Maine DECD website, said Holmes, “and the community will become a key part of Maine’s business attraction strategy.” 

“When businesses are looking where they want to locate, there will be a more prominent listing in those towns than others,” said Holmes.

In addition, Certified Business Friendly Communities will receive bonus points in future Community Development Block Grant applications, pending program approval, according to a press release from the Governor’s Office. Certification is for two years.

Holmes said that he will be meeting with towns throughout Oxford County over the next eight weeks to assist with the application process. While the first deadline is on April 6, Holmes said that towns also have the opportunity to submit their applications on July 6, and again on October 5.

For more information contact WMEDC at 739-6545 or visit www.maine.gov/decd/cbfc/ to apply.

Reprinted with permission from The Advertiser-Democrat.