The Star-Herald

NMDC opens technical assistance center to aid potential entrepreneurs

AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine — In an effort to provide greater opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs, the Northern Maine Development Commission has launched a new Entrepreneurial Technical Assistance Center.

 

For the past two months Brandon McDonald, the commission’s newly hired entrepreneur program manager, has made connections with 10 individuals in Aroostook County who have expressed interest in starting their own businesses or expanding existing businesses. Though its office is located in Caribou, McDonAald has the ability to meet with folks from all areas of The County through videoconferencing.

The Entrepreneurial Technical Assistance Center also serves Washington County and northern Penobscot County and has been in development for several years, according to McDonald. He said that both the city of Presque Isle and Micmac Farms in particular have seen distinct growth in the number of entrepreneurs.

“Both markets have seen the number of entrepreneurs requesting space become larger than the amount of space they’ve had available,” McDonald said. 

While the commission continues to offer financial counseling to small businesses, technical assistance to municipalities and economic development planning services, the assistance center’s mission differs in its specific focus on entrepreneurs and a more “boots on the ground” approach to its outreach.

Instead of waiting for potential entrepreneurs to contact the the center, McDonald has sought out partnerships with local schools, adult education centers, colleges, chambers of commerce and businesses to find people who might have good ideas for new businesses but aren’t sure where to begin.

In the future he would like to build more connections with accountants, attorneys and online content experts who can help entrepreneurs with specific financial, legal and digital aspects of starting businesses.

“We have helped folks through creating a business plan, finding access to accounting resources like QuickBooks and finding a mentor or coach in their field that can help them,” McDonald said. “We call it a ‘cycle of life’ approach because we can help people at any stage in the process.”

Thus far, McDonald has met with entrepreneurs whose ideas range from a snowmobile resort to a Native American historical society to expansion of agricultural-related businesses and software development companies. 

With the University of Maine at Presque Isle developing new programs in cybersecurity and computer science, he sees potential in the development of software companies that can provide services for local and international customers.

One of McDonald’s goals for the center is to not only grow the potential for property tax revenue and job creation that small businesses bring to municipalities, but also to encourage the community spirit and innovation that entrepreneurs often bring to their hometowns.

“As we bring in more partners, I’d like to see tangible economic growth and have our Main Streets flourishing again,” McDonald said. “When someone chooses to remain in northern Maine and open a business here, it shows their dedication and support of their communities.”

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