Development Corporation asks for promotional funds

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

Bringing new businesses to Bridgton is of utmost importance, if the town is to once again become a viable and prosperous location for commercial enterprises to settle here and grow — which would mean more jobs for local people and a broader tax base.

That was the message delivered to the Bridgton Board of Selectmen by Bridgton Economic Development Corporation President Lee Eastman Tuesday night, as he made a request for monies to further that purpose.

In a letter to the board of selectmen formally requesting funds to begin to promote Bridgton, Eastman wrote, “The purpose of this letter is to request funding for the Bridgton Economic Development Corporation. We have been granted our 501(c)3 status and have been meeting on a regular basis for one year. At this time we are setting goals and making plans to be of assistance to incoming businesses and our costs are many. They include, but are not limited to, directors and officers insurance, corporate registration, PO box rental, travel and promotional meetings, legal fees, association memberships, web design and advertising, which will include pamphlets and brochures. Our financial request from the town is for $23,000, which will allow us to establish ourselves in a manner that will have a positive impact on our town, our reputation, our citizens and the future of downtown Bridgton. Please consider our request and know that our overall goal is to promote economic growth and to grow tax revenue in the Town of Bridgton for the benefit of all.”

Eastman explained how the BEDC wants to implement, as soon as possible, several different avenues of fostering economic growth by spreading the word via a marketing campaign that would likely include Mainebiz, an online and print business news resource that will be instrumental, Eastman said, in the BEDC’s advertising campaign to promote Bridgton as an optimal business location.

Eastman pointed out that trade shows, like an upcoming one in Boston, are vital to spreading the message about Bridgton’s unique features and the commercial opportunities it presents. Trade shows are a way “to start pressing the flesh,” said Eastman.

“Until we go out and market and advertise, we’re not going to get anything in return,” Eastman said, at the March 27 selectmen’s meeting. “Is it always a home run? No, but we need this (funding for marketing Bridgton), to get off the ground.”

Selectman Paul Hoyt asked Eastman what the difference is between what the BEDC does, as compared to the Greater Bridgton-Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re here to bring in more businesses and making business (enterprises) larger,” Eastman replied. “The Chamber represents businesses already here — but it doesn’t mean we don’t work together.”

Eastman also spoke of Bridgton’s incoming planning, economic and community development director, Anne Krieg, whose first official day at work is April 2

“We look forward to Anne coming on board,” Eastman stated. “To us, our relationship with her is important, and we know it will be extremely valuable — we welcome the change,” Eastman said, referring to the departure of former economic and community development director Alan Manoian.

Selectman Doug Taft asked Eastman if he and the BEDC members have “the money to go” to the Boston trade show.

“I’m in favor of giving them the money,” Taft said. “I’m not sure where (what town account) the money would come from — but I want to see them get the money they need to promote Bridgton. There is that saying, ‘It takes money to make money,’ and it gives them (the BEDC) a prefect opportunity to prove themselves to us and to the community by going out and doing something.”

“It’s not just Boston,” Eastman said, noting that the busy summertime is fast approaching. “If we wait three or four months (until the June annual town meeting), we miss a huge window of opportunity.”

Selectmen Chairman Arthur Triglione Sr. asked Eastman, “You’re talking about (receiving) the $23,000 before July 1?”

“Yes,” Eastman said.

“The amount of money for this year has been allocated,” stated Selectman Woody Woodward. “I fully support the $23,000 (request) they are looking for.”

Woodward suggested taking the request under advisement, and Triglione said that would allow the selectmen time to come up with suggestions “as to where we can find the funds.”

“I think we should consider taking it from the Contingency fund,” said Triglione. “Let’s try to be creative here.”

Selectman Bernie King said that task, as to where to find funds to give to the BEDC, would best be performed by the town manager who has formulated the proposed budget, rather than the five selectmen coming up with several different ideas of their own.

A suggestion was made to give the BEDC $1,500 already in the budget for the Office of Planning and Economic and Community Development.

A motion was then made and passed to table discussion of the $1,500 being reallocated to the BEDC until after Krieg comes to work here on April 2. So, the board of selectmen will take the BEDC’s funding request up again, at their meeting on April 10. The motion passed with four in favor, while Selectman Woodward abstained.

Eastman said an amount of $10,000 could be sufficient for now, prior to voters considering approving the full amount of $23,000 at the June annual town meeting.

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