PI Council greenlights workforce initiative

1 year ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Presque Isle is one step closer to a workforce solution that would bring foreign and immigrant workers to the area.

The Presque Isle City Council on Wednesday approved an $80,000 Community Development Block Grant application, in partnership with Northern Maine Community College, that would help fund a new workforce program.

Proposed by NMCC and the Northern Maine Growth Initiative, the workforce recruitment program would relocate people to the area for jobs on the Presque Isle Industrial Park and elsewhere.

With employers all over the state facing a lack of workers, several businesses welcomed the concept when it was first proposed in July. If local industries can’t fill employment rosters, leaders feared those businesses could locate elsewhere. 

The block grant would provide the salary for two years for a recruiter, who would work not only to identify workers and bring them to Presque Isle, but also connect them and their families to resources, including housing. The community college has 12 housing units some of those workers could occupy.

NMCC has budgeted $230,000 for the program, with a $150,000 commitment from the Maine Community College System. After two years, the program costs would become part of the college’s budget, according to council documents.

It’s one piece of a larger puzzle that would help Aroostook County move forward, Council Chairman Kevin Freeman said.

“People are not able to conventionally find employees. I’m anticipating this as a catalyst for future employment in Presque Isle,” he said.

Aroostook Trusses of Presque Isle has successfully hired foreign workers on temporary work visas, said owner and Councilor Garry Nelson.

“It’s a desperate need. We have had an application out there for two weeks for a mechanic. There’s just nobody out there that wants to work,” he said.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — September 7, 2022 — City Manager Martin Puckett speaks during the Presque Isle City Council meeting on Sept. 7. (Paula Brewer | The Star-Herald)

With the council’s approval, the grant application goes to the city’s Department of Economic and Community Development for further review.

Councilors also voted unanimously to give Presque Isle’s 2022 Spirit of America Award to the Rodney and Mary Barton Smith Family Foundation.

Maine’s Spirit of America Foundation established the award, which allows municipalities throughout the state to recognize a local person or group for commendable service to the community. 

The Smith Family Foundation was chosen for its long history of investing in organizations and services that strengthen economic development, create

pathways to educational excellence, promote health and wellness and support socially and environmentally responsible endeavors, according to City Manager Martin Puckett.

“This is one individual and one foundation that has made a huge impact on our community,” he said.

Philanthropist and Presque Isle native Mary Smith has financed projects around the Star City — an addition at the Mark and Emily Turner Library, the ongoing Ignite Presque Isle renovation of the Northeastland Hotel, investments at both the University of Maine at Presque Isle and Northern Maine Community College, and the Mary’s Mile walking path around Riverside Park, to name a few.

In other business, councilors voted to have the city administer a block grant program on behalf of the Aroostook County Action Program to renovate its 1 Edgemont Drive location into 13 transitional housing units.  

Following other public hearings, councilors also approved marijuana license renewals for Richardson Remedies and Cloud 9, a special entertainment permit for UMPI, a liquor license and entertainment permit for Lotus Lounge and an automobile graveyard permit for Cowett’s Used Auto Parts.

Councilors set a Nov. 2 public hearing date for dangerous buildings located at 11 Dobson, 13 Judd and 9 and 14 Water streets.

The next regular council meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28.