FARMINGTON — Charged with a task that takes time to accomplish, the Greater Franklin Development Council continues its efforts to help businesses flourish.

Established in 1998, the non-profit organization’s purpose is to create jobs through business retention and expansion and to attract business and entrepreneurs, Alison Hagerstrom, executive director, said.

The work is going well with some great success stories but most of the effort is not visible until an announcement is made, she said.

Last year, the organization began to really focus on creating a local culture for entrepreneurs, she said. Establishing the area as a good place for them to grow, and one where they can come to escape city life, is part of that focus. Encouraging them to develop their concepts and products to create jobs for others is also a part of the mission.

In partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, GFDC hosted EntrepreneurConnect last fall for the first time. There were 29 entrepreneurs from Franklin County along with eight organizers and guest speakers, she said.

Most thought the conference was successful and wanted us to do more, she said.


The next EntrepreneurConnect takes place on May 5 at the Fairbanks Meetinghouse and will focus on marketing, advertising and trademarking, she said.

Organizers hope to have 45 entrepreneurs attend in May and to hold two more conferences per year, she said.

During the past year, Hagerstrom has worked on 13 new business leads, including Polycor and the recycling plant in Jay, and also with Patriot Renewals in Carthage, she said.

The situation with Verso paper mill in Jay is very challenging and serious for the whole county. It is worthy of attention but as one who looks at the glass as half full, Hagerstrom wants to also focus on things that are happening here that are good, she said.

Polycor in Jay and helping with Winterstick snowboards in Carrabassett Valley and the Memory Care Center in Farmington are some of those good things, she said.

Word is getting out that the organization is willing to help and businesses are starting to seek her out, she said.


Along with drawing business, the organization also works on infrastructure items that help promote the economy. These items include things like highway improvements, high-speed telecommunications access and work to develop a retail strategy involving Jay, Wilton, Farmington and Livermore Falls, she said. Work on the strategy is still underway as they explore how the towns can work on it together.

Over the past few years, some success stories that the organization has helped with include Comfort Inn in Wilton, Poland Spring in Kingfield, Notify MD and their subdivision, Stericycle, in Farmington, Trans Canada’s Kibby Wind Power Project in Eustis, Geneva Wood Turning in Strong, Barclays Bank in Wilton, and Patriot Renewal in Carthage, she said.

GFDC also encouraged businesses to apply for the governor’s Business Excellence Award. Rangeley’s Moose Alley and Rangeley Lakes Builder’s Supply were both recipients of the award in 2015.

After making 30 visits to local businesses in 2015, Hagerstrom hopes to triple that number this year. Her work also included 51 business connections as part of an effort to promote business retention, expansion and attraction, and 150 connections with the Chamber and downtown, she said.

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