RUMFORD — A lack of local and state funding has forced the River Valley Growth Council to eliminate paid staff at the River Valley Technology Center beginning July 1.

Growth council President Rich Allen said council members will continue to go after new businesses and will manage the tenants at the tech building, but the work will be done on a volunteer basis.

“Every year, funding has decreased from the towns,” he said.

The administrative assistant prepares informational packets, organizes business workshops, and maintains a contact list for the growth council, among other duties, and has been paid through a grant from the state Department of Health and Human Services because the tech center is medically focused, Allen said.

The tech center, officially known as the Joseph P. Derouche Advanced Technology Development Center, began more than a decade ago when the state encouraged the development of incubators specializing various technologies. The Lowell Street tech center focused on the metal trades, and did house a business that used the site for starting up. It then grew sufficiently to move out on its own.

Then-Gov. Angus King Jr. came to Rumford to hold a meeting of business and community leaders to encourage them to work together.

For the past few years, the tech center has been home to medically-related businesses, such as Community Dental, Curves, the Child Development Center, and others. The Maine Career Center is housed there, as well.

When the tech center began, it was funded by the state, the former MeadWestvaco, which donated the building, and by generous donations from the River Valley towns.

Much of that funding has dried up. Now, RVGC treasurer Bill Hine will serve as financial manager and will collect rents and keep track of them, RVGC Vice President Dick Lovejoy will serve as on-site supervisor, and Allen will fill in wherever needed.

The rents collected will go toward utilities and maintenance costs.

The council’s officers, as well as the council’s other members, will also continue to search for new businesses, lend money to eligible new or expanding businesses from its revolving loan fund, and send out informational packets to interested businesses. Allen said the council will also continue to work closely with the Western Maine Economic Development Council, Service Corp of Retired Executives and Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments.

“This new model (volunteers) hasn’t been tested yet,” Allen said. He is hopeful that the work of the council will continue to find and help new or relocating businesses.

The growth council and the tech center had had separate boards for several years. However, with a decline in funding and staffing, one board to cover both emerged a few years ago.

Allen said all the original incubators, except two that work with the University of Maine, have closed.

Over the years, the growth council has been instrumental in bringing, helping to finance or expanding several area businesses, such as Rare Woods U.S.A., Maine Made Products, The Front Porch Cafe, the River Valley Grill, the spec building in the Rumford Industrial Park, and many others, Allen said.

The council meets at 4:30 p.m. the first Wednesday of the month at the tech center.

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