Livermore Falls launches business contest to fill vacant storefront

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LIVERMORE FALLS — Entrepreneurs can pitch their business ideas to receive a microloan of up to $50,000, a small business banking package and free rent in the Lamb Block building for up to three years.

The contest is designed to bring businesses and services to the downtown.

The available storefront is about 2,200 square feet and has a tin ceiling with an estimated rental value of $1,200 a month. There are also utility connections that include three-phase power and propane, according to contest information.

Kevin Bunker, a founding principal of Developers Collaborative in Portland, said in 2012 that the plan was to invest about $2 million to buy, renovate and restore the 1895 building that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The renovations were completed in January 2013.

The building houses HealthReach’s Western Rural Maine Center on the top floor and some offices on the second floor. H & R Block occupies a storefront on the first floor. The area is within walking distance of other businesses, a walking area and the Town Office.

Coastal Enterprises Inc., which partially financed the project, is offering a microloan to help fill the vacant storefront because it wants to see the last piece of the Lamb Block project completed to bring business and services to the rural area, John Egan, CEI’s director of housing development, said Friday.

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“We were involved in some of the construction lending and we are one of the equity investors,” he said. The organization funds, lends to and an invests in small- and medium-sized businesses, and provides support and technical counseling services to those who need them.

The successful candidate is not automatically guaranteed to get the lot but will be given top priority and, if they go through the process, CEI representatives will work with them, Egan said. 

The challenge will include three phases. Phase one is a one- to two-page business concept pitch due by March 14.

An advisory committee will review the applications from prospective entrepreneurs and choose concepts to advance to the second phase. The committee is made up of representatives from Coastal Enterprises, Inc., Livermore Falls Downtown Betterment Group, Greater Franklin Development Corp., HealthReach Community Healthcare Centers and Bangor Savings, which is offering the small business banking package.

Applicants who advance to the second phase will be required to submit a business plan by April 25. The business plan needs to be fully developed and extensive. The advisory committee will review the plans and several businesses will be chosen to enter the final phase.

In this phase, finalists will need to present their business plans and ideas to the committee May 9. The committee will examine the plans and presentations, contact references and recommend a winner to Lamb Block owner Developers Collaborative.

Judging includes two basic concepts: how likely the business is to be a success and create long-term jobs and economic activity in the downtown; and what’s the best business fit for the building and downtown.

A winner will be announced May 16.

The full contest description and application is available on the Greater Franklin Development Corp.’s website: www.greaterfranklin.com/resources/lamb-block-storefront-contest.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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