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Katahdin Region Development Board Leads Revival

Posted on February 4, 2020 | Success Stories

As Maine celebrates 200 years of statehood, one of her most spectacular and cherished regions is alive, vibrant and reinvigorated–with an exciting and hopeful vision for the future. Working together, perhaps like never before, hundreds of creative and determined people are collaborating to move the Katahdin Region forward with energy and optimism.

With a welcoming spirit, breathtaking vistas and activities for all seasons, the Katahdin Region is embracing its long-standing strengths while innovating to meet the demands of today and tomorrow. The revived Katahdin is a showcase of historic natural beauty and timeless values, but also a potential center of innovation and fresh ideas for economic opportunity and community-building.

Celebrating its first successful year, the Katahdin Region Development Board (KRDB) is positioned at the center of this transformation—serving as a catalyst for regional cooperation, relationship building, and imaginative approaches to business and workforce development.

As envisioned by local leaders, the KRDB recognizes and values the unique dynamics and important community-based initiatives happening in towns and unorganized territories throughout the area. It seeks to foster collaborations with public and private partners to support and promote these efforts on a regional and state level.

Similar to its work and mission, the Board was created through focused conversations and beneficial partnerships. Representing every corner of the Katahdin Region, the fully-realized KRDB was made possible through a relationship formed with the Penobscot County Commission and Eastern Maine Development Corporation (www.EMDC.org).

At the Commissioners’ direction, an Economic Development Director position was funded for seven years thanks to revenues generated, in part, by the Katahdin Woods and Waters Monument. No new tax dollars were required.

“We were approached by a local group representing the Katahdin region and decided that an initiative from the local community with the support of EMDC was a worthy investment of the new federal funds generated by the Katahdin Woods National Monument,” Commissioner Peter Baldacci said while announcing the new Economic Development Director role last spring.

Michael Elliott was soon selected by the KRDB to serve in this new capacity. With roots in the region and a history of executing initiatives within the non-profit and business sectors, he hit the ground running. Former U.S. Representative, Mike Michaud, who serves as Chair of the KRDB, has highlighted the role Elliot is playing as a catalyst for change. “Michael’s connection to our region and impressive background and skills will enrich our efforts to diversify the entire region with long term and sustainable investments and growth,”

Lee Umphrey, President and CEO of EMDC, said the creation of an Executive Director position resulted from “a model collaborative process between the people of the Katahdin region, Penobscot County Commissioners and EMDC.” He said the entire region will prosper with the collective action from the financial and visionary support of the Commissioners. “The Katahdin community has displayed great resiliency, vision and rigor in moving towards a new economy that is forest and innovation based.”

One of the hallmarks of the KRDB is to drive economic revitalization efforts through a concerted regional vision—where a prospective business or entrepreneur has the luxury of providing their criteria for locating in the area and quickly receiving a menu of options, opportunities and potential incentives to ensure a successful transition to the region. Coupled with EMDC’s history of workforce development in the Katahdin Region, which began shortly after the first mill closure in the early 2000s, businesses have access to the support and resources needed to build or expand their operations.

Importantly, the KRDB partners with the Katahdin Higher Education Center for workforce training opportunities, skills enhancement, and customized company-specific programs that can be implemented according to the individual needs of the business. The Higher Education Center is a tremendous resource utilized regularly by the KRDB as a hub of information sharing, programs and innovative thinking.

In less than one year, several projects have been supported by the KRDB.

This work has included direct support of businesses relocating to the area, as well as various infrastructure projects where fresh ideas and renewed actions are being taken to help solve problems that inevitably arise when multiple groups are trying to row in the same direction.  Specific examples of the initiatives taken include:

  • Partnering with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to host a Federal Resource Forum this past summer. It connected municipal leaders with 10 federal agencies to share their challenges and opportunities, as well as to form relationships with the contacts at each agency. Cutting through the bureaucracy and helping businesses gain direct access to the federal government is a priority for the KRDB. The event was also attended by Senator Susan Collins, Representative Jared Golden, and a representative of Senator Angus King. All vigorously support the economic vitality efforts of the region.
  • Joining with EMDC and the Higher Education Center to help emerging Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) graduates leverage their newly acquired training to serve the population within the Katahdin region. Efforts are also underway to collaborate with the local hospital to train new nurses who can support the needs of an aging population.

As KRDB celebrates its first anniversary, Michael Elliott reflects on everything achieved in the region so far. “What a privilege to have made so many connections with such wonderful people. That’s what I love most about the work the KRDB does–building strong and sustaining relationships with all organizations, businesses, communities and territories in the region!”

To learn more about business opportunities and the Kathadin Region Development Board, please contact Mike Elliott at michael.elliott@katahdinregion.org or (207) 723-1862. For additional information about EMDC’s broad range of services for individuals and businesses, contact its Workforce Services team at workforce@emdc.org or (207) 561-4044. Details are also available at www.emdc.org.

State Representative, Steve Stanley; Chair of the Katahdin Region Development Board, Mike Michaud; Associate Academic Dean of the Katahdin Higher Education Center, Deb Rountree; Chancellor of the University of Maine System, Dan Malloy; Executive Director of the Katahdin Region Development Board, Mike Elliott; and President of the University of Maine at Augusta, Rebecca Wyke meet at the Katahdin Higher Education Center in East Millinocket. Photo courtesy of the Katahdin Higher Education Center.

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