RUMFORD – Finding a start-up business – or any existing businesses – willing to move into the River Valley Technology Center in today’s economic climate is getting tougher for the River Valley Growth Council.

At Wednesday night’s directors’ meeting in the center, President Rich Allen said the council had been trying to talk NotifyMD into expanding its physicians’ messaging services company into the center. The council runs the tech center.

Last month, however, the Tennessee company, which opened a contact center two years ago in Farmington, decided to move into 21,000 square feet of leased space at the former Carleton Mills in Winthrop. It plans to employ 200 workers at the site in the next two years.

“They chose Winthrop over Rumford? How nice would that have been to get those jobs?” Rumford Director Matt Kaubris asked.

“We’re working all the time to get businesses here,” Allen said.

“All we need to do is land a big company like that and, boom, we’re turned around,” Kaubris said.

“Call centers are still a possibility, but we still have probably the same story – we’re not fitted out for that. The call center we talked with went to Winthrop,” Allen said.

The technology center is a former three-story brick mill building at 60 Lowell St. It has 6,500 square feet of space available on the first floor and a parking lot nearby.

Small start-up businesses are grown at the tech center, then, if successful, moved out into the community. The business incubator provides shared services, which cuts costs.

“We’ve got 6,500 square feet for them to plug in and play. We’ve got prime space and it’s ready to go,” Administrative Assistant Beverly Crosby said.

“If we can fill up the first floor, we can pay the bills,” council and tech center board member Dick Lovejoy said.

Additionally, more space is available on the upper two floors, which have yet to be renovated or retrofitted for offices due to a lack of money.

Five businesses and the council are the only tenants. The other five tenants leasing space are the River Valley Career Center; Community Dental Clinic; SCORE, a small-business counselors nonprofit association; Catherine Journey, a licensed clinical social worker; and the National Marketing Institute, Crosby said.

Earlier in Wednesday night’s meeting, Allen said the Finance Committee “has some hard decisions to make to generate tenants for the building.”

He told directors to share any possibilities or ideas.

“We need to keep this building open. It’s vital not only to the community, but it’s vital also to the growth council,” Allen said.

On Tuesday, Dec. 9, the council and tech center officials will conduct an exploratory meeting with area health providers to possibly score a new tenant or more.

Directors also met with Sen. Bruce Bryant, D-Dixfield, who is trying to find funding to keep the center solvent.

Council treasurer Bill Hine of Peru said the council has $66,964 available to lend to prospective businesses or start-ups willing to move into the center.

“But, we have not had any applications in months,” he added.

Directors also discussed pursuing renewable energies like wind power, with companies jockeying for position on hills in Rumford and surrounding towns and working through planning boards and state permitting processes.


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