MEXICO — Selectmen and town managers from Rumford and Mexico, and local state legislators will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26, at the Mexico Town Hall to begin a program to help jump-start the local economy.

The slow decline of the NewPage paper mill and subsequent decline of area businesses during the past several decades have been devastating, according to economic developers. For that reason, the area is one of four in the nation chosen for the Fast Forward Restart Program. It aims to pair businesses with advisers to determine what is needed for a recovery.

“We need to get something going in the River Valley,” said Linda Walbridge, economic developer for Community Concepts under the Western Maine Economic Development Council.

Emile Paradis, executive director for the nonprofit Fast Forward Restart Program, is flying in from Atlanta, Ga., to help get the local project off the ground, Walbridge said.

Maine director for Fast Forward, Mike McClellen, and other experts will work with 30 Rumford-Mexico businesses and the hospital to improve the business climate. The Fast Forward Project will apply for state and federal grants of $200,000 a year for two years to help make economic improvements.

Some research will be completed by University of Maine students, headed up by well-known economist Charles Colgan, Walbridge said.

By the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Walbridge said a leadership team should be well on its way.

Paradis and McClellen will field questions from selectmen, as well as from the River Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Rep. Sheryl Briggs, D-Mexico, Rep. Matt Peterson, D-Rumford, and Sen. Bruce Bryant, D-Dixfield, will also attend.

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