FARMINGTON – A western Maine technology company designed a strategy to partner with nonprofit organizations and increase access to open-source computer software.

Bethel residents organized a community conference to energize a creative economy at the grass-roots level. Strong residents started out with an idea and developed a business and civic alliance, including a strategic plan, newsletter and Strong area business directory.

Five teams from Oxford, Franklin, northern Androscoggin, Somerset and Piscataquis counties recently completed the “Lead Western Maine” program, designed to build the capacity of the region’s leaders and their grassroots organizations. Teams from the Girl Scouts of Kennebec Council and Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce also participated.

“This leadership program is unique in its regional focus,” said Kathleen Beauregard, project coordinator at Western Mountains Alliance. “Teams bring their vision to strengthen western Maine. Over six months they develop their local project and are connected to a wide network of resources. They receive training and tools from experts in grant writing, organizing, meeting facilitation, planning and topics specific to their projects. Lead Western Maine enables people to build a base and move their community projects forward.”

On April 15, the graduates celebrated at Washburn-Norlands Living History Center in Livermore, with a 1900s-style bean supper. Graduates will join 22 alumni who have had a direct impact on the future of the region since the foundation of the leadership program in 2002. Lead Western Maine is a program of Western Mountains Alliance.

The alliance is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life and to strengthen the regional identity of the western mountains region of Maine, while honoring rural values and the environment, and supporting sustainable community development.

“Thanks to the county committees and the Maine Community Foundation, we are pleased to be able to offer this program to communities in the five counties that make up Western Maine,” said Beauregard, who welcomes new teams to apply for the fall 2005 program. For more information, see the Web site, www.westernmountainsalliance.org, or call 207-778-7528.


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