January 7, 2019
19 on '19

Government perspective: Collaboration is the key to reinventing Aroostook's economy

Photo / Fred Field
Photo / Fred Field
Christina Kane-Gibson, events and marketing director of the city of Caribou

Christina Kane-Gibson is the events and marketing director of the city of Caribou and a 2018 Mainebiz Next honoree.

She's optimistic about the outlook for Caribou and Aroostook County, predicting that the region will reinvent its economy through collaboration.

"Aroostook County's situation is unique to Maine's overall economy — geographically, workforce challenges, an aging population, infrastructure needs," she says. "It definitely 'takes a village' to overcome. Plus, a little old-fashioned County ingenuity doesn't hurt."

She cites numerous economic development initiatives that blossomed in 2018: An economic summit for local entrepreneurs; designations as a Main Street Network Community through the Maine Development Foundation and an AARP Age-Friendly Community; and a new initiative with New Ventures Maine to offer monthly training sessions for small business owners and start-ups.

She predicts these will help attract outside investment and business incubation opportunities for local entrepreneurs. In the long run, those businesses can develop job base and reverse population decline in Maine's most northerly county.

"Through these affiliations we are growing partnerships and creating focus groups to identify leaders, strategies and solutions to our development needs," she says.

She also cites initiatives like Momentum Aroostook, a network of young professionals and business associates partnering with employers through sponsorships, and Momentum's Leadership Development Series, where successful Maine-based entrepreneurs share stories and advice.

"We know that geographic and workforce issues exist, but we aren't afraid to roll up our sleeves and employ different tactics to tackle them," she says. "Sometimes a strategy may work and sometimes it may not, but the effort helps us evolve and add knowledge and tools to our economic development toolbox."

The city is also furthering its relationship with the Aroostook Band of Micmacs as the band develops initiatives in agribusiness and cultural tourism among other things. She expects that to continue.

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