Economic Development
Year in Review 2017

2017 was a productive year for Aroostook County economic development efforts.  A new Harbor Freight business opened at the Aroostook Centre Mall, a new Tractor Supply opened in Madawaska, Smith and Wesson expanded in Houlton, the ‘Maine Malt House’ business expanded in Mapleton, a new business ‘ TRP Truck Parts’ opened at Loring which provides both parts and service, the new $3.1M Acme Monaco expansion opened in the Presque Isle Industrial Park, the forest products sector flourished with both Louisiana Pacific & Huber having a great year, and the potato & broccoli crop quality was excellent.  Overall, there was over $160M in business investment and an impressive 243 new jobs created throughout the County which brings our 5-year totals to over $900M in investment and 914 new jobs created. In fact, 2017 saw growth across virtually every sector of our economy from healthcare and agriculture to forestry and manufacturing.  Small business growth was particularly strong as NMDC’s Small Business Development Center Director was nationally recognized for exceeding goals in assisting new business starts.  And at Loring, several businesses are interested in that location, but they will require an anchor business such as aviation to provide the business base to justify their development.
The County also had a lot of exposure and interaction with the rest of Maine in 2017 as the Aroostook Partnership (AP) held their ‘Aroostook Day at the Legislature’ in January with 25 legislators and more than 60 total attendees.  The key topics discussed were the economic benefits of forestry and mining as well as the need for welfare policy revision to enable and incentivize the unemployed to re-enter the labor force.  In February, in coordination with the Maine Development Foundation, we hosted two busloads of legislators for a County tour and economic, demographic and collaboration discussions to give them a better appreciation for Aroostook’s economy and challenges.  Tourism efforts were also more aggressive as AP teamed with the Aroostook County Tourism Board to produce a very attractive and informative tourism map in addition to the revised County Tourism Guide.  And in September, AP hosted a business luncheon with the leaders of the new National Monument to begin a dialogue of how we can work together to bring more attention to the County and the Monument as that project develops.
In Energy, Emera Maine continued to modernize our infrastructure and the two ReEnergy biomass power plants benefited from a power purchase agreement the legislature approved to allow the sale of electricity to the state.  Multiple wind projects and the transmission interconnect worth billions of dollars responded to the Massachusetts clean energy request for proposal and should hear if they were selected in 2018. Unfortunately, ReEnergy notified the system administrator that they may have to shut down in the fall of 2018 if they are unable to get new contracts.  This could greatly impact our forest sector economy as well as the County’s power reliability.   Regarding energy challenges, the Aroostook Energy Association was formed to work with AP and Emera Maine to pursue solutions to enable policies and practices that can maximize the greatest energy stability for County businesses.  The Maine Public Utilities Commission will visit Aroostook in January to hear business concerns and suggested ideas to keep the ReEnergy plants operational and approaches for policy revision consideration.
14 years ago, the ‘Tarnished Crown’ report analyzed the County’s economy and population trends and concluded that the private sector needed to participate in economic development.  That report was the motivation for forming the Partnership.  This year, AP contracted to have this economic analysis updated and the final report entitled ‘Caring for the Crown’ captured both the progress and the challenges, especially with our demographics, that are projected for the County over the next 10 years.  The projections are alarming and a top priority for 2018 will be to determine a strategy and actions to increase engagement to turn around these projections.
Looking forward, the Partnership’s top priority remains growing the County’s future workforce.  Almost every major employer is seeking additional qualified workers and the challenge is growing.  AP is working with our high schools, our local colleges, and our major employers to increase awareness of the existing and projected employment opportunities and promote internships, apprenticeships and company tours throughout Aroostook.  We’ll continue to collaborate with our Chambers of Commerce and agencies like SADC, ACAP, AAI, Junior Achievement, Jobs For Maine Grads, and our Career & Technical Education schools to promote retention efforts.  And in 2018, we intend to reach out to groups such as Empower Aroostook, Momentum Aroostook and young professionals to assist in attraction efforts using social media and our Opportunities Aroostook website.


Maine Quality Centers (MTC)

Eligible Businesses:
New or expanding firms creating a minimum of eight (8) new full-time jobs with benefits in the state of Maine . Consortia of businesses creating a minimum of eight new, full-time jobs are also eligible. The award is based on skill requirements, wage benefit levels, and company and labor market analysis.
Program Summary:
The MQC program uses the states Community College network to generate a pool of trained applicants, from which a company can select its labor force. The program provides 100% state-financed education and training in support of job creation, as well as customized recruitment and guaranteed fast-track training designed to employer specifications. This program is offered at no cost to the company or trainees, and is delivered by the state's seven technical colleges. Training can be for either pre-hire or post-hire trainees.
Program Example:
A local software development firm has received training assistance through Maine Quality Centers in support of 5 separate expansions since 1997, representing increases from 8 to 105 employees at a time. The company's unique product required specialized training for new hires and, through Northern Maine Community College (NMCC), the cost of authorized proprietary training was paid for with funding from MQC grants. From programmers to sales representatives, employees participated in training delivered by company representatives on site at their growing facility. All participants were screened and hired first by the company and were trained on company time.
Most recently, MQC approved a grant through NMCC to support a combination of proprietary post-hire training provided by the company and the development of a new certificate program at the college. In this latest project, NMCC has partnered with the company to develop and deliver a customized Certificate in Commercial Software Development to be offered at the college as a either a stand alone associate degree or as a third year certificate option for graduates of NMCC's Computer Information Systems (CIS) program. The grant will support up to 13 students in the first year of the program to be offered as pre-hire training for the company. ATX will participate in program and course development as well as in recruitment, assessment, and selection of the students for the first class; all of whom will receive training at no cost to them or to the company. Successful students will be interviewed by the company following training and the company will make final hiring decisions. Once developed and piloted during the coming school year, the program will likely be offered at NMCC as a regular tuition program to the general population. It will serve as a feeder to help meet anticipated future hiring needs as the company projects continued growth.
Program Valuation Example:
Investment Assumptions
Total Jobs Created
Employees Utilizing Program (est.)
ROI & Program Valuation
Estimated Value per Employee
Total Value of MQC Training Programs:


 © Aroostook Partnership 2018