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September 5, 2017

USDA's $300K in grants to foster job creation in rural Maine

Six Maine economic development organizations and towns will get a total of $296,000 through U.S. Department of Agriculture grants designed to boost job creation in rural areas.

Grants ranging from $90,282 to $15,725 will go to the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center, the Northern Maine Development Commission, the University of Maine System, Eastern Maine Development Corp., the town of Madawaska and the town of Ashland, the offices of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, announced Friday.

The grants were awarded through the USDA Rural Development's Rural Business Development Grant program, which supports targeted technical assistance, training and other activities that lead to the development or expansion of small and emerging private businesses in rural areas.

"Federal funding can play a pivotal role in the development of strategies to strengthen rural economies and assist communities across Maine," Collins and King said in a joint statement. "We commend the USDA for providing this important investment to help foster job creation in rural areas of our state."

Grant recipients and their awards:

  • Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center will receive $90,282 to support the Maine Fisheries and Aquaculture Initiative. Money will be used to provide business planning assistance to at least six existing businesses and technical training, business planning, and financing to 10 new aquaculture businesses in Washington County.
  • Northern Maine Development Commission will receive $70,000 to establish a revolving loan fund to assist small and emerging businesses in Aroostook and Washington counties.
  • University of Maine System will get $50,000 to provide targeted technical assistance, training and networking opportunities for 12 child-care providers and 18 small retail and service providers in northern Penobscot and Aroostook counties.
  • Eastern Maine Development Corp. will receive $20,468 to finance Bixby & Co.'s Safe Quality Foods certification, which will allow the craft confectionary company in Rockland to mass manufacture and distribute, with a potential to hire five new full-time employees over the next three years.
  • Madawaska will receive $49,500 to build a pavilion that will offer year-round services and access to local food for the St. John Valley Region.
  • Ashland will receive $15,750 for the initial work and implementation of a strategic planning process and initiatives for economic development in the Route 11 corridor, and to provide technical assistance to new business owners/investors in expansion opportunities in the project area.

Don Tardie, chairman of the Ashland Area Economic Development Committee, said that in addition to the grant, Ashland "and major forest products businesses have contributed another $5,250 to boost our ability to provide the much-needed outreach in developing our regional workforce."

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