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SADC director sees growth for area in 2018

HOULTON, Maine — Although members of the Southern Aroostook Development Corporation have not yet had their annual meeting, executive director Jon McLaughlin said the group has plenty of ideas ready to advance economic development in the region this year.

“We have a manufacturing operation that we are hoping to make an announcement about later,” he said. “It is not a big draw as far as jobs, but it will bring ten or twelve of them to the community. The benefit is that we believe that it will bring a lot of secondary jobs to the community, as far as workers who will need to make things for what will be made at the plant.”

McLaughlin said that local investors in Houlton are involved with the project.

“We hope to break ground in the third quarter of the year,” he said.

McLaughlin said that SADC, which seeks to develop and expand the economic base in the southern region of The County, also is hoping to relocate a business from downstate to set up in the area. He said that firm intends to manufacture homes.

“They are originally from the southern Aroostook area,” he said. “We are in the process of funding a temporary facility. Items can be manufactured locally, so it has a lot of offshoots to it. If it works out, the homes can be sold and transported all over the country.”

McLaughlin said that SADC also sees both hope and economic growth in the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Millinocket, which in its first year drew nearly 30,000 visitors, even though Gov. Paul LePage has forbidden the Maine Department of Transportation to install signs directing people to the new monument.

“I think that we are going to see Canadians coming over to take advantage of that,” he said. “It may take some time, but I believe it will happen. I can see them wanting to buy things like bikes and kayaks and camping goods and things before Millinocket, and our stores will need to have that. I also see Bangor benefitting from the people coming the other way. I think this will be great for both Maine and Canada.”

The group also wants to pay extra attention to both agriculture and information technology this year, according to McLaughlin.

“We have more younger people who are coming back and are interested in agriculture, especially the niche markets of agriculture such as the newer breeds that are being created,” he said. “We want to work more in this area and with these young farmers. We have also made a new relocation video, which is directed toward anyone who works in IT or computer related professions who works for national or international companies and are allowed to do their jobs pretty much anywhere they would like and only have to check in with their company headquarters once a month or once a quarter,” he said. “The direction that some industries are going now, more people are able to work from home. We would like to have more people move back to Houlton and southern Aroostook by introducing them to what we have to offer here. Maybe we don’t always have to attract big manufacturing companies here, we can also get a few professionals here and  there who are attracted to our community.”

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