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NCIC could replace CEDC as county-supported development organization

March 31, 2010
WEST STEWARTSTOWN — Androscoggin Valley economic development director Max Makaitis of North Conway reported on the recommendations recently made by the Community EFSEC Advisory Committee (CEAC) to the county commissioners at their Wednesday morning meeting. His appearance was an add-on to the printed agenda.

Mr. Makaitis works under the auspices of the Northern Community Investment Corp. (NCIC) which serves as AVER's fiscal agent.

After Mr. Makaitis' presentation, the commissioners asked him if NCIC had terminated its partnership with the Cos Economic Development Corp. (CEDC). The formal relationship was terminated some weeks ago, and NCIC vice president resigned her position on the CEDC board, Mr. Makaitis said.

"In my opinion, now that the county cord with CEDC has been cut and a void created, we should explore a partnership with NCIC," Cmr. Grenier said. "This would be real economic development, without anyone cutting our throats at the end of the bus," he said, adding that he would like to forge "a formal working relationship."

He said that during the next budget cycle in 2011 he would like to see the county develop a formal economic development package with NCIC, in which the commissioners would remain involved. He made no reference to any dollar amount that he had in mind, however.

When asked, he explained that low-cost loans under the Community Block Development Grant (CBDG) program could be done by NCIC but that 20 percent of the repayments would still continue to flow to CEDC.

A waiver from this provision could be sought, however, from the N. H. Community Development Finance Authority (CDFA), Mr. Makaitis explained after Cmr. Grenier had asked how long this arrangement would continue.

Once some state grants ran out, CEDC was subsidized for several years by county taxpayers with a $48,000 to $50,000 appropriation in the county budget.

The commissioners agreed that they would like to pursue finding a way for NCIC to get 100 percent of CDBG repayments. NCIC already has working relationships with the City of Berlin, AVER and Groveton.

Cmr. Grenier reiterated that "the cord has been cut" with the CEDC, leaving the county with "a void." He would like to have a new situation develop in which there would be "no backdoor politics," although he admitted he worried that the CEDC would "politick their way back in" at a time when there is a real opportunity to develop a cohesive economic development plan with NCIC.

Commission chairman Burnham "Bing" Judd of Pittsburg said that the CEDC had left the commissioners and the delegation "in the dark."

Cmr. Grenier said that he was "thrilled to death" at the prospect of working with NCIC, and Cmr. Tom Brady of Jefferson pointed out that NCIC's primary New Hampshire office is in downtown Lancaster, which houses the New Hampshire Grand project.

The 16-member CEAC, which Mr. Makaitis chaired, is a local Berlin non-board community committee organized by the Androscoggin Valley Economic Recovery Corporation (AVER) to consider how the 70-megawatt Laidlaw biomass project could both protect and benefit the community while simultaneously creating long-term jobs and economic development.

Both the county commissioners and Berlin City Council are expected to use the committee's work as input to their intervener positions, he explained.

Commissioner Paul Grenier, now also Mayor of Berlin, was a CEAC member.

NCIC is headquartered in St. Johnsbury, Vt., and maintains offices in Lancaster, Berlin, and Plymouth.

NCIC vice president Cathy Conway is already on the agenda for the commissioners' next meeting, tentatively set for April 21.

Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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