It’s way more than a slogan.

It really is happening here, in the language of the regional marketing program promoting Lewiston-Auburn championed by the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council, in ways which are the envy of nearly every other hyphenated community and metropolitan area in the state. And many of those communities are in constant competition with each other, and with countless other similar communities all over the country, to attract jobs, business, investment, entrepreneurs; to expand the tax base and improve the quality of life for their citizens, employers and employees.

Secret weapon

For the past 30 years, L-A has had a secret weapon that helped this community recover from the conversion from the mill-based economy of the 19th century to the more diversified economic base of the 21st; that enabled L-A to be “the engine of job creation” through the first decade of the new century, for a time creating more jobs than in the rest of the state combined; that has provided a basis for inter-city collaboration that is unmatched anywhere in Maine.

Much of that progress was achieved by projects undertaken or assisted by the Growth Council, including new and rehabilitated buildings, business and industrial parks in both Lewiston and Auburn, gap financing, and confidential consultation regarding site selection, expansion and infrastructure.

Visionary leaders

LAEGC was created by visionary business and civic leaders from both cities, in 1981, and had, as a predecessor, the Lewiston-Auburn Railroad Company – founded in 1872 as an essential part of the critical infrastructure that helped L-A become among the country’s leading producers of textiles and footwear for more than a century, and still under the management of LAEGC – and the Auburn-Lewiston Airpark, developed 100 years later, a model of collaboration, innovative revenue sharing, and a foundation of the logistics and transportation hub that is driving the

new economy.

Public-private partnership

The Growth Council is a distinctive model of a public-private partnership that is a unique catalyst enabling municipalities to stimulate private sector activity in ways which are otherwise beyond the scope of government. A recent opinion column in the Sun Journal by economic development specialist, Phil Blampied, entitled, “Local Government & Economic Development: Why local programs fail,” suggested that when “government steps into the private economy [it] inevitably makes mistakes.” LAEGC is a solution to that problem, and one which other Maine communities have been trying to emulate for years.

The distinctive mission, configuration and model of collaboration helps minimize any potential barriers between business and the public sector, and provides a degree of privacy that facilitates business establishment and growth in ways not available directly to municipalities.

Businesses assisted by LAEGC have contributed more than $216 million to the tax base of Lewiston and Auburn in just the past decade, helping minimize the tax burden for existing businesses and homeowners. An average of 15,000 people have worked in Growth Council-assisted jobs in the past 10 years, and the Council has provided over $34 million in lending funds to Auburn businesses plus an additional $33 million to Lewiston-based enterprises.

Local investments

Beyond just direct lending, the Growth Council has, since its inception in 1981, leveraged nearly $45 million in new local investments through comprehensive financing programs. The specialized staff creatively explores traditional and nontraditional resources to meet financing needs for equipment purchases, real estate acquisitions, other fixed assets, and

working capital.

The Growth Council has a proven record of utilizing lending and packaging skills to facilitate bank financing for businesses that were initially unable to access conventional credit. The Council is also the staffing authority for both the Lewiston Development Corporation and Auburn Business Development Corp., providing both financial acumen and management along with administrative services.

Business development

The Growth Council helps businesses take full advantage of the area Pine Tree Zone tax benefits, and was the driving force behind creation of the international Foreign-Trade Zone. To take advantage of the FTZ designation and continue tackling the perennial issue of limited development space, ABDC and LAEGC worked on a plan to create a new Auburn Industrial Park.

The 140-plus-acre industrial park abuts the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport, and drew the interest of Bisson Transportation, which created a 100,000-square-foot heated and secure warehouse, with a complete array of inventory logistics services. Savage Safe Handling also created a massive warehouse and distribution facility called the Port of Auburn, LLC.

Among the most visible of LAEGC’s continuing projects is the annual Business-to-Business trade show, Maine’s largest one-day business show, which has, since 1995, annually attracted about 2,500 attendees and nearly 200 exhibitors. This year’s show is slated for the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Thursday, June 9.

The Growth Council was among the founding partners, along with the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce and the cities of Lewiston and Auburn, in the establishment of the “It’s Happening Here” marketing effort, which has achieved recognition throughout Maine, and beyond, for the twin cities and the resurgence of economic vitality the campaign celebrates.

Launch L-A

Among the most innovative new projects undertaken by LAEGC in the past year was the introduction of the “Launch L-A” project to encourage former area residents to come home and establish businesses (and jobs) in this community. Together with the Chamber, the Growth Council leveraged $100,000 worth of business services and incentives which were awarded as a grand prize to the entrepreneur judged to have the most attractive business plan.

Business Service Center

In addition to ongoing projects including FTZ marketing, staffing the L-A Railroad Company, and providing support for its sister corporations with spec building and industrial park projects, the organization also maintains the Business Service Center in Lewiston’s Southern Gateway on Lisbon Street. The one-stop shop for business services includes the offices of LAEGC, the Androscoggin County Chamber, Coastal Enterprises, L-A Magazine, Merrill Lynch, and others.

Two vibrant cities

In times of prosperity and in times of austerity, economic development experts from all corners of Maine acknowledge that LAEGC has provided the L-A area with unique capacity to be competitive and to optimize whatever opportunities the economic climate offers.

Perhaps, most importantly, the Growth Council has, in its 30 years, helped shorten the distance across the Androscoggin, creating a cooperative, integrated business community on the base of two vibrant cities.

Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council

415 Lisbon Street, P.O. Box 1188

Lewiston, ME 04243-1188

Phone: 784-0161

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