AUGUSTA — As commissioner of Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development, I would like to set the record straight in regard to the intent of Maine’s new Certified Business-Friendly Community Program.

I believe that Portland Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz missed the mark in his attempt to describe the program and, in some cases, totally misrepresented the facts in his column published June 10 (“State’s idea of friendly message: You don’t make the cut”).

As a member of the LePage administration, I am proud that we have implemented several critical changes to improve Maine’s overall business climate. Welfare, pension and regulatory reform and the largest tax cut in Maine’s history were just the beginning.

Creating an even better environment for private-sector job growth continues; the work is by no means over. We owe it to Maine taxpayers to provide our job creators with the tools they need to expand and compete and drive our economy forward.

While we continue our work pursuing the same goals, we must also recognize the tremendous efforts taking place in our cities and towns. In many communities, there exists a true dedication to partnering with businesses and removing unnecessary obstacles to economic development.

In Bucksport, the Town Council is encouraged and will keep making improvements to enhance their business attraction efforts by “walking the walk, not simply talking the talk.”

Those are not my words or the words of Gov. LePage. That was a comment made by the director of economic development in Bucksport, referring to the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Certified Business-Friendly Community Program.

In the first round, just announced recently, a total of nine communities were recognized. Those communities are Augusta, Bath, Biddeford, Brewer, Bucksport, Guilford, Lincoln, Saco and Sanford.

As Bucksport Economic Development Director David Milan so eloquently pointed out to me in a recent letter, “The recognition through the certification is certainly a good marketing tool for the communities. But the even more important gift that it provides a community is that it makes you think.” Well said!

We encourage all Maine communities to, as in David Milan’s words, “think” about what would make their community more business-friendly. In Bucksport, even though it has been certified, that means a renewed focus on how to even better streamline the process for dealing with businesses.

All of these business-friendly communities should be proud of their efforts. At the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, we will continue to recognize these communities with special business-friendly certification.

Cities and towns deemed business-friendly will become a key part of Maine’s business attraction strategy. Communities will also receive a Maine Department of Transportation road sign and, with federal approval, earn bonus points for future Community Development Block Grants.

Our commitment is to work with any city or town that wants to earn this designation. We want every city and town in Maine to be business-friendly.

Several of the communities that did not meet certification this round are already making the necessary changes in order to become certified.

Rumford has recognized the opportunity that exists in the process of self-examination, and I’m confident that it, too, will be recognized in the very near future. We are encouraged by this attitude and willingness to recognize areas that need improvement, whether in permitting or work force training initiatives.

There are several folks involved in deciding which community is certified. A team of business and economic development experts from both the private and public sector weigh each community’s application independently.

According to Mr. Nemitz, the review team is made up of “LePage appointees,” when in fact, only two of the seven are. In addition to the community applications, the group considers the results of random anonymous surveys sent to 10 businesses in each city or town.

After all that information is compiled, the review team reaches consensus and recommends whether or not to certify that specific community.

This program is not a contest to pit one community against another. As Milan said, working through the application process was “a great experience of reflecting on what we have done.” That is what this program is all about: the process of making Maine as business-friendly as possible, not politics.

 

– Special to The Press Herald