Brett Richardson is Lisbon’s new economic and community development director. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

LISBON — Lisbon’s new economic and community development director hopes to apply his business experience to make the town thrive.

Brett Richardson took the helm of the town’s economic and community development department on Nov. 12., his first municipal role.

Richardson attended the Muskie School of Public Service studying community planning. There, he developed plans for We Compost It, a food waste composting business.

“That gave me experience really in how to start a company, how to form a company, how to put the resources in place and capital and business plan to start that and grow,” he said. “That gave me private-sector business experience to compliment the public policy and community planning experience.”

He has also worked for Coastal Enterprises, Inc., a Brunswick-based community development financial institution.

He applied for the economic and community development director position left vacant by Tracey Steuber last year. She left Lisbon in early July after six years with the town to work as a planning and economic development director in Gardiner.

Lisbon, a former mill town, has worked to reinvent itself in recent years. The last of the Worumbo Mill at 1 Canal St., was torn down in July 2016, decades after most of the mill complex burned to the ground in 1987. Now the town council is awaiting a report by the town planner examining what opportunities exist at the site. The town-owned property is expected to provide some downtown parking, access to the Androscoggin River, as well as support some economic development near the town’s gateway.

Richardson said pedestrian access and public transportation can be improved at the Worumbo area, and the Maine Department of Transportation plans to repave Main Street.

The town was built around the mill and the mill infrastructure created a strong foundation to provide what people are seeking more and more — to walk to a coffee shop, to a park and to enjoy amenities without necessarily climbing into a car.

“Lisbon has great bones for that,” he said, “both on Village Street and Lisbon Falls Main Street to revitalize it in ways that are great, offer healthy lifestyle opportunities and are what many young families want. So I think Lisbon is poised for really great growth and renewal and I’m really honored to help play a role in that.”

The energy and momentum in town helped draw him to Lisbon. He pointed to the grassroots business group Positive Change Lisbon, which has helped represent and promote the business community.

Lisbon Development Committee is championing smart development and trying to find the best approach for development opportunities within the town.

The businesses on Main Street are vibrant and there are few storefront and real estate vacancies, Richardson said Friday. There also are great recreational resources with Beaver Park and a burgeoning trail system.

The town has Dingley Press, a strong employer, and a robust business community along the Route 196 corridor, one of the most traveled roads in Maine. The town located “in the middle of it all” between Bath where Bath Iron Works is looking to hire, and Lewiston and Auburn which are also still amidst revitalization and creating more jobs.

“There are opportunities for Libon to be part of that regional growth strategy in the middle of two really booming areas, and only 40 minutes or so from Portland,” Richardson said.

As those communities grow, Lisbon will help provide workforce housing too, he said. With a couple of new restaurants on an attractive Main Street and all the other staples including its own grocery store, he believes Lisbon will become more of a destination.

In his first year, Richardson aims to meet existing business owners and to help with issues like job retention and workforce shortages.

“The top priority is serving the existing business community,” he said.

Richardson said it’s an exciting time to help Lisbon figure out what its next chapter will be.

“I think that the folks in Lisbon are proud of who they are, they’re proud of what Lisbon has been and I think that they will maintain that as part of their identity as the town continues to evolve,” he said.

 

 

Comments are not available on this story.