News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, November 21, 2013
Castine CED plans to use economic consultant funds for marketing plan
Town voted for $30,000; $17,000 is left

by Anne Berleant

The Community and Economic Development committee met on November 15—the last meeting for economic development consultant Sue Walsh, whose resignation went into effect that day.

“As far as I’m concerned… it’s time to wrap up,” she said, declining the board’s offer of five hours a week to work with the Promotions Committee.

Walsh has invoiced about $13,000, she said, of the $30,000 available since the position was approved at town meeting on June 1.

“It appears we have the ability” to use those funds for a marketing consultant, said Chairman Rick Armstrong. “We’re just taking from one to another.”

The CED has issued a request for proposals to marketing consultants for a focused campaign.

“We’re going to have to be very careful how we spend that money,” said Selectman Peter Vogell. “It was voted to spend it a certain way and we can’t vary from it.”

“We won’t move without going through selectmen and the town manager,” said Armstrong. “We’ve got into a gray area.”

The CED asked five companies to submit proposals, but only two responded. Two Blue Hill marketing firms who were asked, declined.

“I find that very interesting,” noted member Pat Bishop.

The committee plans to advertise its request to a wider audience.

The CED has decided to focus on developing a marketing plan and a technology incubator to support new research and development “spinoff” companies from Maine Maritime Academy projects, in an effort to address “economic sustainability” in Castine, Armstrong said.

“Susan took the courage to bring it to a head,” he said. “We really want to look at the larger scale of economic development.”

Technology incubators could provide year-round jobs, said Armstrong, who is director of the Tidal Energy Development and Evaluation Center at MMA. The academy received a $500,000 research grant in 2012 from Maine Technology Institute, and spinoffs connected to the research project are located in Brunswick and Bucksport.

“How do we make [Castine] attractive to incubators so they don’t end up in Bucksport?” Armstrong asked. “We need to know the pieces, know where MMA is going.”

In informal conversations with MMA President William Brennan, Armstrong said he was told that the academy is supportive of the CED’s efforts to support tech incubators.

“It’s complicated, but given the money coming into the academy…we need to take advantage of that,” he said.

The academy was recently awarded $4.5 million dollars to research the development of biofuels in shipping.

Representatives from Castine Community Partners (CCP), a private, charitable organization, MMA and the CED are potential members of a tech incubator subcommittee.

“I think it’s important that selectmen be present at all meetings,” said Bishop.

Selectman Gus Basile agreed.

Any investment in a tech incubator would not be from the town, Armstrong said, but the town would “enable” it.

“It’s a lot of work, but the rewards are long term.”

In other business, members approved spending $460 on trees to be used for the Light Up Castine event on December 6, and paying the $7,300 owed for production of a Castinopoly game. The funds will be taken from monies raised by the CED.

The Castinopoly game’s total cost is $13,500, with $5,705 raised so far in donations, and a $2,000 down payment paid by the CED. A private donor is prepared to make a “significant contribution” to cover costs after fundraising is complete, said Walsh.

“The committee stands to make $18,000,” she said, on 50 games sold at $40 apiece.

The board squares will feature places that don’t change, the promotions committee decided, like Dyce Head lighthouse and Emerson Hall, but not local businesses, which will be reflected in the game cards.

“It was a scramble, “ Walsh said. “There was no good way to make that decision.”

The committee approved Scott Vogell to take over the town dock WiFi project from Walsh, and Town Manager Dale Abernethy agreed to take over payment of the Web account Walsh opened that holds survey results and other documents.