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Updated: March 30, 2023

Appetite for growth: FocusMaine helped create 215 food-related jobs in 2022

Two people at a food fair Photo / Foreside Photography Courtney Jean Perry, left, and Tomer Kilchevsky of Shovel and Spoon at the Maine Food producers Showcase and Golden Fork Awards, sponsored by FocusMaine. Shovel and spoon won Best New Product for its Middle East Coast Labneh (a soft Middle Eastern cheese made from strained yogurt).
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FocusMaine, a statewide economic development organization, helped businesses create more than 215 food-economy jobs in 2022, its latest annual barometer shows. The businesses participated in two food accelerator programs run by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs.

Other 2022 successes highlighted in FocusMaine's latest results report, released Thursday morning, include: more than $11.5 million in new federal and state funding secured by food program participants; 50 food companies that benefited from technical and assistance programs; and 17 life sciences companies introduced to opportunities in Maine.

In addition, 62 employers and 367 interns, co-ops and apprentices enrolled last year with Maine Career Catalyst, a program that provides professional development, social opportunities and networking for experiential learners working in Maine. The latter included 114 interns in the agriculture and the food economy, aquaculture and biotechnology industries.

“What an exciting and transformative year for FocusMaine," said Dana O’Brien, president of FocusMaine. "We continue to deliver results for Maine people through successful business support and attraction programs, new investments in public support, and workforce development programs that help young adults start great careers in Maine. I couldn’t be more impressed with our impact, our partnerships, and the direction we are headed.”  

Five people
Photo / Molly Haley
From left, the FocusMaine team includes Mikayla Sweet, grants and finance manager; Courtney Crossgrove, food and agriculture program manager; Dana O'Brien, president; Laura England, communication and outreach manager; and Leo Waterston, program director.

The report includes stories that highlight FocusMaine’s mission, impact and partners. For example, the Equity in Internships Program, in partnership with Educate Maine, awarded 15 stipends to Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) students facing financial barriers to accepting internships in food and agriculture, aquaculture and life sciences industries.

FocusMaine also sponsors the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs Cultivator and MarketShare food accelerator programs. A survey of participants found that 9 of 10 entrepreneurs reported an increase in confidence in their business and business plan after participating in those programs.

“It’s easy to say that the high growth and success in the past year is a direct result of our participation in the cultivator program,” said Tomer Kilchevsky of Shovel and Spoon, a farm and catering company in Limington that he runs with Courtney Jean Perry.

"Our financials got in order, our cost models got reviewed and polished, our safety protocols improved significantly, we got clarity on the business on the whole, and our branding/marketing got stronger," Kilchevsky said. 

"All aspects of our business improved significantly," he added. "The access to different mentors and other resources from lawyers to graphic designers to operation specialists helped us gain insight, grow, and perform better.”

Find out more about FocusMaine and read the latest results report here

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