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Scarborough Economic Development Corporation

Photo courtesy of the Scarborough Economic Development Corp. Scarborough, a coastal community 10 minutes from Portland, is the site of 1,400 businesses, over 15,000 employees, and Scarborough Industrial Park, shown below.

A community ally gives business plenty to smile about

With four public beaches, a 10-minute commute to Portland, direct access to I-95, and a pristine salt marsh that attracts birders and artists from around the world, it’s no wonder that Scarborough has been named one of America’s 10 “happiest seaside towns” by Coastal Living Magazine.

Scarborough’s business community is also pretty cheerful these days. In fact, nearly as many people now come to work in the town — over 15,000 employees, at 1,400 businesses — as the 20,000 people who live here.

The businesses include a growing number of bioscience organizations, such as the Maine Medical Center Research Institute and the Alere division of global pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories. MaineHealth has a large campus in Scarborough and Martin’s Point Health Care built a new facility here in 2017.

Scarborough also is home to Piper Shores retirement community and the corporate headquarters of Hannaford Supermarkets. And there are small businesses, like The Cheese Iron, a European-style purveyor of specialty foods. Restaurants like O’Reilly’s Cure, Nonesuch River Brewing, Pine Point Grill, The Garage BBQ and Dunstan Tap & Table (opening this summer) are also discovering Scarborough as a source of committed foodies.

Oh yes, for you beachgoers, there are plenty of places to stay, including the historic Black Point Inn and the newly renovated Higgins Beach Inn, both run by the Migas Hotel Group.

The mix has made Scarborough “a full-service business community,” says Karen D. Martin, executive director of the Scarborough Economic Development Corp. “We’re fortunate to be the site of an extremely strong and diverse range of business activity.”

Fueling success

SEDCO is working to fuel Scarborough’s business success even further. This 32-year-old organization provides free, comprehensive and confidential assistance to businesses considering location or expansion in Scarborough. Support includes an up-to-date inventory of available commercial space, information about lending and funding sources, and consultation on permitting and regulatory issues.

Over decades of growth, Martin continues, the town has learned to balance the needs of a thriving economy with the priorities of its residential communities and natural resources. The result is a setting where government, businesses and other stakeholders work to find mutual solutions — even if that means a change in land-use zoning, for example.

“Scarborough tries to get to yes,” says Martin. “The town listens. If you’re a business coming here, you’re moving into a community that understands where and how business can happen. Process is important, but so is the attitude of the people here.”

From horses to houses

Another example of how Scarborough understands business and evolves with the times has been making news headlines.

In April, the town’s Planning Board approved a master plan for the development of 500 acres of land surrounding the Scarborough Downs harness racing track. The parcel, sold in January to Scarborough-based developers for $6.7 million, is at the geographic center of the town, stretching from U.S. Route 1 to Payne Road near Exit 42 of the Maine Turnpike. Under the master plan, the site will be built out over the next 10-20 years into an “urban village” that includes housing, shopping, dining, office, light industrial and recreational facilities.

Last October, SEDCO entered the Scarborough Downs property into the pool of proposed sites for the second headquarters of Amazon Corp. The pitch was considered a long shot among the 238 bids to host the $5 billion campus — and indeed, Scarborough didn’t emerge as one of the 20 finalists in Amazon’s selection process. But the town’s exploration of a radically new use for the racetrack property, and now the creation of a bold long-term plan for it, demonstrate Scarborough’s creativity and adaptability to a national audience, according to Martin.

“Very few communities get the chance to remake such a huge piece of property at their center,” she says. “It’s incredibly exciting that Scarborough is working with partners that are invested in the town and have a vision that benefits everyone. And it says what the town of Scarborough is all about.”