Former School Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster, right, now a SCORE business mentor, with Lauren Gray of Cranberry Oysters, one of his SCORE clients. Webster worked as a chief financial officer at a salmon aquaculture company before going into education. In addition to serving central Maine, he also mentors aquaculture businesses statewide. Submitted photo

Gifting, building, coaching and lighting things up — it’s a two-Buzz week.

First up: The return of a familiar face with a new mission.

Bill Webster, who retired in 2019 after eight years as Lewiston school superintendent, is back in the area, this time as a certified SCORE Maine mentor looking to help grow local businesses.

“Our clients include people who just have an idea and want to bounce it off,” said Webster. “They include people who actually want to start a business — they know what they want to do, they just don’t know how quite to do it. Or people that are already in business and are dealing with an issue.”

He’s already working with a wedding barn, co-working space and someone who wants to establish a social club.

SCORE’s Lewiston office at the chamber closed about 10 years ago, leaving the area overseen by offices out of Portland and Oxford Hills. The Twin Cities have been under-served since, he said.

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Over the summer, SCORE’s new central Maine chapter, serving Bethel to the mid-coast, opened an office in the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments building in Auburn. Webster, who lives in Georgetown, has limited office hours there and is also mentoring remotely.

“The most common requests are to help someone develop projections and a business plan, maybe hold their hand through a financing process,” he said. “And another very common question is to help people ascertain how should they legally structure their business, should they be sole proprietor, should they be an LLC.”

Before becoming a superintendent, Webster worked as an executive at Hannaford and at a salmon aquaculture company. He also owned Haven’s Candies for 11 years, growing it from four employees and $250,000 in annual sales to 20 employees and $1.5 million in annual sales.

“I’ve got a wealth of experience and it’s an opportunity to share that with others, but it’s also an opportunity to stay current,” he said.

Find Webster and other mentors at centralmaine.score.org

Dick Albert and Diane Champoux are among the staff at The Champoux Insurance Group who have donated toys for the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s annual Stuff the Bus gift drive. Albert was the founder of the drive when it started in 1998. He remembers about 600 gifts being collected the first year of the event, which was called Christmas for Kids at the time. Today, between 2,000 and 3,000 gifts are collected for Stuff the Bus. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

AND SPEAKING OF HELPING

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The Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s annual Stuff the Bus gift drive wraps on Monday.

The chamber has paired with the Auburn Walmart and Lewiston Walmart Distribution Center to encourage donations to nine local drop-off sites with the goal of helping 1,000 local families, teens and seniors this year.

“We were excited to include seniors in 2020 and continue to seek gifts and items needed by that group — lap blankets, card games, warm clothing,” said Chamber President and CEO Shanna Cox. “This year’s goal of 1,000 individuals is almost double last year’s goal.”

The gifts will be picked up on Tuesday by chamber staff on a Northeast Charter bus and then distributed through agencies that include Community Concepts, Sandcastle Clinical & Educational Services, Promise Early Education Center, Safe Voices, New Beginnings and Tri-County Mental Health Services.

For wish list ideas and drop-off locations, LAMetroCC.com/bus.

SADDLEBACK SOLAR

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State regulators approved Saddleback Mountain’s plans for a new $8 million solar array last January and this week, the mountain announced it would be working with Nexamp on the project, the same developer behind a $16 million array in Auburn.

At Saddleback, the project will sit on 31 acres in the northwest corner of the property and generate 7.36-mega watts of power.

Construction is expected to start early next year with it going online by the start of the 2022-2023 ski season, according to a press release.

AUBURN CONSTRUCTION

Included in Auburn’s November permit report, out Wednesday:

Tambrands received a permit for a nearly $1.2 million foundation-only project at 2879 Hotel Road, part of a $15 million expansion approved last spring.

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The other sizeable commercial permit for the month was a new foundation for a six-unit apartment building at 28 Wellington Court for G.M. Morin Enterprises, a $25,500 project.

Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Shanna Cox showing off the new Explore + Discover guidebook in downtown Lewiston earlier last summer. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo

LET’S END ON MORE NUMBERS

At the chamber’s annual membership meeting Thursday, held during its monthly breakfast, Cox and board Chairperson Jess Donovan offered a host of facts and figures for the last year:

• Membership stands at 766 with 43 new members in 2021. The chamber’s working with another 72 perspective members.

• Its revolving loan program supported 23 loans to 17 clients with $700,000 repaid to the program during the year.

• Of the 15,000 Explore + Discover guides highlighting the region that the chamber printed up last summer, only 500 are left. Some 6,000 were used by local companies recruiting talent, 800 were requested for wedding guests and 500-plus were requested by mail and sent across the U.S.

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“Some (who received them in the mail) stopped back in to our lobby and have moved to the area,” said Cox. “This is one of the pieces that helped them make that decision, so that’s something we’re really proud of.”

• The first-time JumpstartME small business competition with Downtown Lewiston Association received 15 applications. The winner, Rusty Bus Brewing Co., is expected to open in the spring.

• Strengthen LA, the new jobs and workforce collaborative, worked with 118 individuals and placed 36 in employment and education opportunities, according to Cox.

“That’s pretty exciting given that we didn’t really start that intake process until well in to 2021,” she said. Looking ahead to 2022, “we’re excited about that work (and learning) what the workforce needs are and your needs are.”

Quick hits about business comings, goings and happenings. Have a Buzzable tip? Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at 689-2844 or [email protected]

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