Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Shanna Cox, center, is flanked Monday morning by Lewiston’s Economic & Community Development Director Lincoln Jeffers, left, and Michael Dostie, president of the Downtown Lewiston Association, standing in front of 120 Lisbon St. in Lewiston. The space is up for grabs rent-free in a new business competition kicked off Monday called JumpstartME. The chamber and downtown association are collaborating on the competition and the city has offered $10,000 in support of the effort. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Wanted: Your business at 120 Lisbon St.

The Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Lewiston Association announced the launch of JumpstartME on Monday, a business competition with a $70,000-plus prize package that includes free rent on Lisbon Street for a year.

Michael Dostie, president of the downtown association, said the competition is timed to appeal to businesses that might have shelved plans during the pandemic and are coming out the other side now, finally seeing full capacity and full hours.

“Are they starting to have those conversations again, well, let’s take a look at expanding, let’s take a look at actually starting a business or taking it to the next level or relocating,” he said.

And as they do, they reason, why not give Lisbon Street a look?

“JumpstartME is an exciting opportunity for businesses to remove a lot of the risk while exploring a new location,” Shanna Cox, chamber president, said. “Additionally, we really hope that JumpstartME as a whole generates excitement in the downtown district and that people are thinking about Lewiston in a way they maybe haven’t before.”

Included in the prize package:

• One year of free rent at 120 Lisbon St. from developer Carl Sheline, worth more than $20,000.

• $50,000 in marketing and branding services from Rinck Advertising.

• $2,500 in accounting services from Austin Associates, P.A.

• A year’s worth of business legal services from Skelton Taintor & Abbott.

Entrants can be a start-up or a business looking to move or expand, from within Maine or outside.

The initial one-page JumpstartME application asks for a brief description of the business, a vision of the downtown, number of employees, hours and references and is due to the chamber by Aug. 15. Qualified applicants will be invited to submit a second, more in-depth application with a detailed business plan and financial projections by Sept. 3, followed by interviews and a winner chosen in October.

Dostie said the competition is focusing on the food and beverage industry but remains open to other ideas.

“We look at that as the perfect compliment to the building, small business community that we have here,” he said. “We also look at it as the most likely business category for success.”

The 2,000-square-foot storefront was formerly used by a fraternal organization. The application states that the winner will be required to sign a three-year lease with the first year free.

Should the contest attract several, viable businesses, the Lewiston Downtown Association is contributing $5,000 and the city $10,000 to incentivize an additional one or two other businesses into the downtown with starter funds.

“Hats off to the Downtown Lewiston Association and LA Metro Chamber for having a vision on how to add vitality to the downtown and taking action to create a robust incentive package that will support an entrepreneur opening up shop downtown,” Lincoln Jeffers, Lewiston’s economic and community development director, said.

The chamber is holding online JumpstartME information sessions on July 1 and July 19.

A similar effort a decade ago, Launch L-A, organized by the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council, offered a $100,000 prize package and was aimed at someone 30 or younger who was returning to the area with a business idea. It was won by Kim Jacques and Chelsea Callanan and led to Revelation Massage.

For the new JumpstartME, Dostie said he’d like to see at least half a dozen applicants move into the second phase of the competition.

“I don’t think we have marketed downtown Lewiston’s business district in this way in a very long time,” he said. “For me, the bigger the number (of applicants), the better,” he said. “It really comes down to how suitable the business is and how strong the business plan is, how much time and research went into it and how strong the financials are.”


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