Entrepreneurs in the Lakes Region and beyond have an opportunity to open a business in the Gray-New Gloucester area through the Grow GNG competition hosted by the Gray-New Gloucester Development Corp.

The organization is accepting proposals for new businesses, or businesses looking to expand, until June 30. The winner of the competition will be awarded a $10,000 forgivable loan and other services to help kick-start entrepreneurship. The total value for the winner is $17,000.

Tracy Scheckel, president of the development corporation, said the business competition “has always been part of our mission, which is to foster economic growth in Gray and New Gloucester.”

For the first of three phases, applicants are required to submit a brief proposal for their business. In the second phase they submit a fully developed business plan, and in the third, present the plan in person to a panel of judges. The winner will be selected by the end of September.

The project was inspired by and modeled after a business competition called “Main Street Challenge,”run by the economic development organization Heart of Biddeford.

The Main Street Challenge was conducted in 2012 and 2013, according to Delilah Poupore, executive director of Biddeford organization.

It started as a way to create momentum in the Biddeford business community and “it really accomplished that,” Poupore said.

The two years of competition brought five new businesses into the downtown, according to Poupore, and three of the businesses remain open at their original Main Street location.

One of the five businesses, a restaurant, has closed, and one other has shifted to an at-home business.

Poupore said the organization stopped running the competition because it has inspired other businesses to come to Biddeford to open their doors, “and we didn’t want to continue a program whose job was to kick-start entrepreneurism.”

The Heart of Biddeford is funded in part by the city, according to Poupore, but Gray-New Gloucester’s development corporation is not.

For this reason, Scheckel said, the development corporation looked to regional businesses to help sponsor the program.

Among the competition’s sponsors are Androscoggin Bank, which helped to structure the forgivable loan, Scheckel said. Dave Eldridge, senior vice president and commercial lending manager at the bank’s Lewiston branch, is among seven judges for each phase of competition.

Eldridge said he decided to take part in the competition because “the best job is going throughout Maine and seeing all of the cool things people are doing in the business world. You learn about things you never guessed are going on in the state.”

Much like making judgments on loan requirements, Eldridge said, he’ll be looking for a plan that’s feasible and well-designed.

As for the ideal business to bring to town, Scheckel said, the kind of business doesn’t matter so much as it’s “compatible with the fabric of the community,” citing Gray as more of a “village” feel and New Gloucester as being more rural.

“Ultimately, we want them to create new jobs at the end of three years, and for the business to be viable within three years, she said.

“Whether it’s manufacturing or a coffee shop, the sky is the limit as to what type of business,” Scheckel said.

A closer look

For more information about the Grow GNG competition, visit http://gngdc.com.

The Gray-New Gloucester Development Corporation is offering entrepreneurs the opportunity to compete for a forgivable loan and business support. 

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