Partnership Year in Review 2016

    2016 was a busy year for the Aroostook Partnership. We completed the merger of LEAD and APP, expanded the Board of Directors and Executive Committee responsibilities, and made great progress on how we’ll organize to lead economic development efforts going forward.  Our top three priorities this year were to 1) promote County job awareness and expand business/education collaboration, 2) lead the Forest Cluster efforts to grow this key segment of our economy and 3) expand our manufacturing growth potential. We continued two very successful former LEAD signature events in hosting live political debates with WAGM that were aired statewide and in holding the impressive ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’, which was won by the Buck family (Maine Malt House).
    From a County growth perspective, we saw moderate growth with about $77M of investment and approximately 75 new jobs created.  That brings our 5 year totals to about $750M of total investment and 714 new jobs created.  Generally, our forestry and manufacturing sectors observed the most success and there were also new capabilities added in healthcare and agriculture.  We saw new restaurants open and a number of positive developments emerge that could set the stage for some significant future employment.
    The Partnership’s top priority remains growing tomorrow’s workforce.  This year AP purchased the ‘Virtual Job Shadow’ program for 17 County High Schools to help students better understand career choices.  In collaboration with our Superintendents, AP spent $9000 on this effort saving $6000 by doing a block purchase – a great example of how ‘working together’ can be more cost effective.  AP sponsored three ‘Business/Teacher’ socials across the County where we had employers meet with guidance counselors and teachers to describe the number of forecast jobs, education requirements and qualities they were looking for in future employees.  These ‘socials’ were very successful and we plan to continue these sessions in 2017 to build awareness of businesses and employment opportunities in hopes this information will be passed on to students.  We also started a ‘Did You Know’ email series to over 800 educators on business employment facts to emphasize that there ARE jobs here!
    In Forestry and Manufacturing, Louisiana Pacific (LP) and Huber had excellent years and LP recently announced they’ll hire another 20 employees to return to full time operations.  Similarly, the Irving mill announced they were expanding and looking to hire another 20 employees.  Twin Rivers paper company is investing another $12M to upgrade a machine and have moved their research efforts from Quebec to the University of Maine.  AP’s Forest Cluster had a great year and supported the passing of two key pieces of legislation getting the State to purchase Biomass power from ReEnergy and eliminating the off-road diesel tax for loggers to help them lower costs in these challenging times. Smith & Wesson in Houlton is planning to transfer their hand cuff production allowing room to install more CNC machines to grow their main plant production.  Porvair in Caribou continues to grow having built their new ‘clean room’, hire more personnel, and more than double their previous business base.  ACME Monaco recently signed their new lease agreement and has started their $2.3M upgrade that should conclude in 2017.
    Our Energy sector was not so fortunate.  A couple of the major wind projects (#9 Mtn. & King Pine) were counting on the ~$1B Emera/CMP ‘Maine Renewable Energy Interconnect’ project to be awarded.  When that didn’t occur, those projects are now back to looking for future contracts before proceeding.  On the ‘good news’ front, the companies maintain that the projects are still viable and believe they’ll materialize in the future.
    In Agriculture, Pineland Farms in Mars Hill has been very successful, continued to hire more employees and started another expansion effort. Smith Farms experienced new competition from a firm in New York but continue to be successful and had great success with their new solar system.  Other good news was that the Maine Malt House company in Mapleton was so successful that they are expanding their production facility to quadruple their product development to satisfy the heavy demand for malt that is ‘made in Maine’.
    The efforts of the Partnership happened because of the time, talent and energy from our members, the dedication of the Board of Directors, our tireless executive committee and the outstanding members in our working groups. The Partnership is an amazing model that shows the real desire to advance Aroostook.


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:


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