Biddeford mill owner Doug Sanford, left, talks about some of the history of the city’s textile industry with French Consul General Arnaud Mentre, who came to tour Biddeford Tuesday and to converse with Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, right, about topics that included French immersion programs and trade. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — Consul General of France Arnaud Mentre came to Biddeford on Tuesday, had a conversation with Maine House Speaker Rep. Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, about French language immersion programs and trade and then took a tour of the Biddeford Mills Museum.

In brief remarks prior to the tour, which was led by mill owner Doug Sanford, Mentre noted the strong cultural ties between France and Maine — a relationship he said he wants to continue.

Fecteau and Mentre had conversed earlier downtown, continuing to discuss the topic of French immersion classes that began initially with the Maine Department of Education, said Fecteau. He said the DOE has established a working group on the topic.

Fecteau, a Biddeford native who represents House District 11 in the Maine Legislature as well as being House speaker, said there are three French language immersion programs in Massachusetts — and he would like to see similar programs in Maine, and specifically in his hometown.

French Consul General Arnaud Mentre and Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau chat as they walk toward the Pepperell Mill complex on Tuesday. The two discussed French language immersion programs and trade. Tammy Wells Photo

“Biddeford is a good place for it,” said Fecteau, who is French, but said he does not speak the language. “I hope to have more young people in Biddeford and Maine begin to understand the Franco identity and have a greater connection to the French language.”

Mentre said there would be continued work on the French language component.

“It (could) open opportunities for young people in Maine who may want to connect with France, as well as Canada,” he said.

He also spoke about trade between the state and France.

“Boston is a big hub for French companies,” he said,  that could also spur opportunity in Maine.

Mentre noted the work that has been done to revitalize Biddeford.

“I’m impressed with the progress,” he said.

Prior to his assignment in Boston, Mentre was deputy assistant secretary for North America in the Bureau of the Americas at the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs responsible for bilateral relationships with the U.S. and Canada.

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