Northern Maine Community College located in Presque Isle, Maine celebrated opening new facilities enabling the education and training within the use of the regions abundant renewable energy resources. The expansion was made possible by one of the largest private contributions, $1.2 million, in Maine higher education history. The donation was provided from California resident and Presque Isle native Mary Smith. The award was made in honor of her late husband Rodney Smith, a native of England, who rose from an impoverished youth and incredible odds to become a successful businessman in the US.
Northern Maine began their VE Journey in 2010 by launching Mobilize Northern Maine. Locally sponsored by the Northern Maine Development Commission and Aroostook Partnership for Progress, hundreds of community and business leaders set their regions economic goals, held numerous indigenous resource asset mapping sessions concluding with the prioritization two industry clusters, Renewable Energy and IT Outsourcing. VE facilitation assisted the region by defining the clear linkage between the regions leverageable assets and their adopted economic vision.
The Aroostook Renewable Energy Economy included a variety of niche markets, biomass to energy, grass biomass, community and small wine, excess industrial steam, the buy local Northern Maine energy market and the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Center of Excellence. Collectively this strategies impact could reach 666 direct jobs, 569 indirect jobs, $45.3M in new employment earnings, production fuel value of $75.9M and overall yearly GDP impact of $70.9M.
The opening of the Alternative Energy Center of Excellence is a key element to the creation of a renewable energy economy. Both wind and biomass energy projects need highly skilled technicians and knowledgeable workers. The new 7,800 square foot building will allow for the expansion of the NMCC’s wind power technology program and laboratory space of solar and biomass.
Tim Crowley, President of NMCC stated, “the center will have significant impact on our ability to help Aroostook County and the state build infrastructure and workforce needed to ensure alternative energy is key to unlocking the future economic potential of the region.”
In addition to the Smith family contribution, NMCC has also received a $225,000 grant from Efficiency Maine Trust for new technology and equipment to support new classes that will stress energy efficiency in construction and renovation practices.
“Mobilize Northern Maine has been a powerful and worthy initiative in Aroostook County. NMCC has been able to leverage the development of a measurable strategic plan to support our college, our meaningful connections with the business community and our role in support of growing the economy,” said Tim Crowley.
As part of the Mobilize Maine initiative the ViTAL Economy Alliance helped Northern Maine uncover the opportunity and value of green alternative energy resources in the region as part of a comprehensive strategy to strengthen the region’s economy.
Less than one year later Aroostook County, Maine, identified how leveraging their natural biomass resource assets can result in significant positive economic impact. The 45,000 ton/year biomass to energy strategy will result in 130 direct jobs, 97 indirect jobs, and $12.1 in GDP impact from local fuel sourcing/production and $6.9M in consumer wealth retention. Already the region is seeing the fruits of that their focused effort to bring biomass to energy projects to the fore, through two significant investment announcements.
Four biomass conversion projects in Maine’s Aroostook County have received a total of $3 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, contributing significantly to renewable goals set for the northern part of the state.
“Converting public facilities to use wood-based fuel is a win-win-win situation,” said Eliza Townsend, commissioner with the Maine Department of Conservation. All four heating projects were awarded $750,000 for installations of wood chip boilers expected to displace tens of thousands of gallons of fuel oil, according to the Aroostook Partnership for Progress.
Recipients are: Limestone Community School; Madawaska Junior/Senior High School; The Northern Maine Medical Center; and the University of Maine at Presque Isle. “These grants will save local schools money, reduce dependence on foreign oil, create a market for Maine-grown wood and create economic activity in rural areas of Maine,” Townsend said.
In addition, the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension Houlton office and the Process Development Center were awarded almost $1.7 million from the Maine Technology Asset Fund to construct a grass pellet demonstration facility for commercial and residential heating applications in Aroostook County. The project will demonstrate the potential for use of the nearly 400,000 acres of underutilized farmland across the state.
The Mobilize Northern Maine Renewable Energy Industry Cluster has set goals to convert 10 commercial boilers and 4,500 residential units to biomass by 2015. These five projects bring the converted commercial boiler total to nine, according to Walt Elish, president of the Aroostook Partnership for Progress. “We’ve created a biomass energy industry cluster,” he said. “Each of these projects will contribute considerably to reaching that goal.” The projects will help retain wealth, jobs and will increase additional investment, he added. Every aspect of the biomass industry is shaping now in northern Maine, Elish said, citing harvesters, energy generators, pellet manufacturers, and now certified biomass boiler installers.
“This is all great news to us,” Elish said of the funding. “It’s great for Aroostook County.”
The results of a year-long Mobilize Northern Maine process that focused on identifying economic opportunities, that could potentially generate $200 million in additional business activity, were recently presented to a group of community and business leaders at the Northern Maine Community College. Since 2009, the Aroostook Partnership for Progress (APP) and the Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) have been working with consultants sponsored by FairPoint Communications’ Connect Northern New England program to implement Mobilize Northern Maine, an economic development initiative that builds on the strengths and unique assets of the region. Walt Elish, President and CEO of APP explained, “this past year the Mobilize Northern Maine process brought together industry leaders to discuss and evaluate unique opportunities in the renewable energy and IT industry clusters. The results of this collaborative approach have led to the reports presented today that identify niche market opportunities for the County. It’s been an exciting process that has produced some very interesting results.” Mike Eisensmith noted that “these reports give us clear guidance on what steps need to be taken to develop implementation strategies to develop these markets.”
Jim Haguewood of ViTALl Economy presented the opportunities identified in the information technology (IT) and renewable energy industry clusters. Haguewood explained that the renewable energy industry cluster has the resources in place to develop an entire biomass to heating industry that would retain and generate $19M in new GDP impact in the County. Also the region’s higher education assets and programs lend themselves to establishing a “Renewable Energy Center of Excellence.” “Both of these are exciting opportunities for the region and can be realized by community leaders taking charge of their economy,” said Haguewood. A collaborative approach to developing business opportunities within the business process outsourcing market was described that would assist individual specialists and small companies in Aroostook County compete together for significant projects. Through an Outsourcing Broker Collaborative, the region can aggregate the brokerage system to access these larger proposals, improving the regions businesses tapping into this expanding market. “The Aroostook County work ethic is something special and proven performers that can be leveraged for additional economic opportunities”, said Haguewood. He noted that the IT industry cluster team believes that northern Maine could become “the premier rural technology hub in the United States where innovation and opportunity attract wealth and people to the region.” While it will take a collaborative effort on the part of every IT company in the County, this is achievable, maintains Haguewood.
Chris Anderson, Chair of APP Board of Directors, supports the asset mapping process noting that the visions identified for each cluster sets the tone for the entire process of developing a robust economy for the region. “Bringing private industry together to discuss their local and regional assets in conjunction with their respective industry is leading to opportunities for growth unimaginable prior to starting the Mobilize Maine process.
The Southwest Tennessee Development District, based in Jackson, TN received a 2010 Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation for its REDI- Regional Economic Development Initiative. REDI was launched following 18 months of regional consultations by ViTAL Economy including facilitation of an economic summit of over 200 leaders in late fall of 2009 which became a catalyst to ignite REDI in April, 2010.
Designed to improve access to higher education for both youth and adults, REDI captured the attention of Washington, DC-based National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) and was named one of its “2010 Innovation Award” winners in Workforce Development at its August 28-31, 2010 Annual Training Conference in San Diego, Calif. REDI is the only initiative in the State of Tennessee – in any category – to have received the distinction.
“For more than 20 years, NADO’s Innovation Award has provided regional development organizations throughout the nation a unique opportunity to showcase creative projects like REDI – Regional Economic Development Initiative, which makes it possible to advance the economic growth and sustainability of our nation’s regions. This recognition brings to the forefront the important work of regional organizations and their critical role in promoting economic development for rural and small metropolitan communities,” said NADO President Mike Norton, executive director of the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District in Harrison, Arkansas.
The cornerstone of REDI is its college access program that will train workers to meet employer needs – such as at the megasite in Haywood County. “Our program will help to get our people educated and trained for the jobs of the future, will make educational attainment levels in this region of West Tennessee better and will provide people with the skills that they need to be productive employees for the industry in West Tennessee,” said REDI Director Lisa Hankins. Barker said, “We’re very excited about this national honor…It is validation that what we are trying to do is worthwhile.”
Mobilize Maine continues to expand its reach and energy level within the Maine economic and community development community with a new website and newsletter launched in September 2010. Mobilize Maine is a statewide asset based economic development program sponsored by Fairpoint Communications, the leadership of Governor Baldacci and the consultation expertise of ViTAL Economy.
Mobilize Maine is a cooperative effort to grow Maine economy, led by the efforts of private enterprise, Maine’s regional economic development providers and the State of Maine. The website found at www.mobilizemaine.com communicates the uniqueness in three ways:
FairPoint believes its role in economic development is working as a partner with state, local and regional organizations interested in supporting economic growth. Our goal is to support and enhance meaningful, sustainable economic growth. We are also committed to taking a leading role in using technology to expand and sustain local and regional economies.
The Mobilize Maine initiative is based on a proven economic development model used by many communities across North America. It is a local leadership-driven initiative that builds directly upon the strengths and competitive advantages of each region to generate jobs and economic growth. The initiative is an exciting new approach that can provide the catalyst to involve representatives from all sectors of each region's economy and community.
A discussion about the successes and challenges facing Mobilize Maine, a new, collaborative, bottom-up approach to community and economic development that will help Maine grow and prosper now and in years to come. Host: Dan Coyne, MECEP Fiscal Analyst Guest(s): Mark Ouellette, Dir, Office of Bus. Dev., ME Dept. of Econ. and Comm. Dev.; Walt Elish, Pres., Aroostook Partnership for Progress (APP); Chris Anderson, Pres., F.A. Peabody
Since its official kickoff, the Mobilize Maine effort has produced a number of notable successes, according to Mark Ouellette, Director of Business Development, State of Maine, Department of Economic and Community Development. None has been as significant as the alignment of workforce and economic development systems in two regions that cover over 50% of the state. For the first time, workforce development and economic development barriers are being broken down to build additional capacity and efficiencies, while delivering better service for job seekers and employers. Nationwide, only six other districts have achieved similar results, according to Mr. Ouellette.
In the most northern part of the state, Northern Maine Development Corporation (NMDC), the federally designated economic development district (EDD), has taken over the fiduciary responsibility of the Department of Labor Local Workforce Investment Board (LWIB). In addition, the state is undertaking a realignment of the EDDs that, in Northern Maine, will combine the NMDC’s and the LWIB’s area of jurisdiction.
In the eastern-central part of the state, the federally designated EDD, Eastern Maine Development Corporation (EMDC), and the local Department of Labor LWIB have created what may become a national model. In addition to having the EMDC act as the fiduciary of the LWIB, the LWIB has contracted with EMDC to deliver workforce development programs and services. Several Labor Department representatives have visited Maine to monitor and ask questions about this model.
According to Mr. Ouellette, these developments are a direct result of VE’s work with the Mobilize Maine process in these regions.
ViTAL Economy, on behalf of Connect SI, recently completed industry cluster niche market research focused on the Energy and Transportation, Distribution Logistics (TDL) industries in the 20 southernmost counties of Illinois.
Energy research recommendations identified viable niche market opportunities for wind turbine production and wind farms and waste-to-energy, which will help Connect SI reach its goal of 5,680 new energy jobs by 2013.
TDL research identified river terminals, railcar maintenance and light sport aircraft as key niche markets in which the Connect SI region could be competitive. These opportunities were strategically selected to assist the region in reaching its goal of 1,675 TDL new jobs by 2013.
River terminal research concluded that a new port authority, the Alexander-Cairo Port District, should be authorized and developed in close proximity to the convergence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. In May 2010, the Illinois state legislature approved the passage of legislation authorizing the Alexander-Cairo Port District. This is a major achievement for Southern Illinois and a tribute to the comprehensive research efforts of the TDL cluster. Governor Pat Quinn signed this legislation into law on July 8, 2010 at a signing ceremony on the Ohio River at 8th Street in Cairo, Illinois.
Connect SI is a regional economic development initiative that, for the first time in the history of this region, has brought together hundreds of leaders across 20 counties to transform their regional economy. Its leadership advisory council is chaired by Southern Illinois University President Dr. Glen Poshard and its Executive Director is Kathy Lively, who is also CEO of Man-Tra-Con the regional workforce investment board serving Southern Illinois. VE has been a strategic partner of Connect SI since it was launched in 2006.
When Joe Barker, Executive Director of Southwest Tennessee Economic Development District, (SWTDD) called on VE to help him address the economic development challenges of Southwest Tennessee, VE used its ENVISION services to help the region define a regional sense of urgency and to develop a critical mass of regional leaders. Following 18 months of regional consultations, VE facilitated an economic summit of over 200 leaders in late fall, 2009 that launched the Regional Economic Development Initiative (REDI) in April, 2010.
REDI, which serves a region with a population of over 340,000 people, initially will focus on transforming the educational expectation culture of the region and improving access to higher education for youth and adults. A key component of REDI is a college access program called Southwest Tennessee Educational Pathways (STEP). REDI also will focus on increasing access to and adoption of broadband in the region.
ViTAL Economy recently completed a national study of back-office service solutions that could dramatically lower administrative costs for 22,000 small non-profits serving Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. This research study, a FairPoint Connect NNE initiative, was the result of 18 months of interviews with hundreds of NNE non-profit leaders who noted that a top priority was sharing a back-office administrative services portal that did not compete with the mission of each non-profit.
VE also reviewed existing research; evaluated existing back-office shared service platforms and interviewed dozens of non-profit leaders. The research team, led by Frank Knott, documented that 75% of NNE non-profits:
VE recommended a 10-point solution path to establish an on-line shared software and technical support portal focused on:
Return on investment (ROI) analysis indicates that such a service could improve non-profit audit compliance by 90%, increase operating revenue by 20% and lower back-office operating costs by 60%.
Non-profit leaders accepted the research recommendations and asked VE and Connect NNE to help develop a business strategy to launch a non-profit, back-office services portal.
Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce released a new study in June 2010 that VE believes regional leaders should study and integrate into their CED strategy. This report, Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements through 2018, confirms that there is a fundamental disconnect between the requirements of employers and workforce development resources and education and training outcomes.
According to this study, the U.S. economy will create more than 46 million job openings by 2018, 63% of which will require college degrees or post-secondary preparation. Yet, more than 60 million of U.S. employees aged 25 to 54 are still working in jobs that require a high school education or less. Further, since 1970, the share of middle class people with some college education or an associate’s degree has declined from 53% to 45%, while the share of people with associate degrees in the top three income categories increased from 28% to35%.
The VE Alliance has been communicating a sense of urgency around this educational scenario for the past ten years. Our experience confirms that economic regions that plan for and implement relevant, just-in-time workforce development strategies integrated with 21st century, do-it-now knowledge and asset-based CED strategies, will experience robust economic growth and increased prosperity. We encourage leaders to download the Georgetown report at http://cew.georgetown.edu.
"WSIU takes a closer look at the Connect SI economic development intiative in a special episode of WSIU InFocus. Southern Illinois University Glenn Poshard and Connect SI consultant Frank Knott outline how broadband technology has the potential to create thousands of new knowledge-based jobs in the state's 20 southernmost counties within the next five years." Originally aired Friday, January 5, 2007.
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