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January 11, 2024

FocusMaine gets $6.9M from Harold Alfond Foundation to build food, bio economies

People at an event. Courtesy / Focus Maine Brendan Parsons, right, owner of Blackstone Point Oysters, offers samples of his oysters at the Maine Food Producer Showcase, hosted by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs in partnership with FocusMaine.

FocusMaine, a private-sector initiative to create jobs in agriculture, aquaculture and biopharmaceuticals, announced Thursday it has received a $6.9 million grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation and will use the money to strengthen the state's food and bio economies.

The three-year challenge grant “marks a pivotal moment for FocusMaine, propelling its mission to strengthen and transform Maine’s economy by expediting the growth of Maine's food economy and bioeconomy and building talent pathways to support a robust workforce,” FocusMaine said.

Funds will go toward a comprehensive three-year strategic plan, ensuring the continuation of effective programs and a shift into more innovation and stakeholder engagement. 

“The Harold Alfond Foundation is proud to continue its support of FocusMaine, an organization with superb leadership, a strong network of partners, and building momentum and impact statewide,” said Gregory W. Powell, chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation.

“As it rolls out this next stage in its long-term strategy, we are confident that FocusMaine will drive the growth of even more quality jobs in Maine’s most globally competitive sectors.” 

FocusMaine added that it "eagerly anticipates continue its efforts to convene, coordinate and engage a network of Maine resources to ... support continued growth in coming years,"

'Continue momentum'

In 2024, FocusMaine aims to use one-third of the grant money on various programs delivered by the organization's partners, a spokeswoman told Mainebiz.

Initiatives include the Cultivator, MarketShare and Visionary Leadership accelerator programs at Maine Center for Entrepreneurs, and Coastal Enterprises Inc.’s Tastemakers program. FocusMaine has also teamed up with Educate Maine on two signature workforce development initiatives, the Maine Career Catalyst and the Aquaculture Pioneers pre-apprenticeship program at small farms.

In total through all of its programs, FocusMaine said it has fostered the growth of 180 Maine-based companies including Maine Grains, Bixby Chocolates, American Unagi and Atlantic Sea Farms.

File photo
Andrea Cianchette Maker

“We greatly appreciate the Harold Alfond Foundation’s generous grant, enabling us to continue momentum in our sector-level economic development approach,'' said FocusMaine co-founder Andrea Cianchette Maker, who recently became president of the organization.

“With our valued partner organizations, we are catalyzing jobs for tomorrow to replace the jobs of yesterday and developing the workforce for those jobs, helping to shape Maine’s economy for future resilience and growth," she added.

Maker was honored as a Mainebiz Woman to Watch in 2016.

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