Sunrise County Economic Council (SCEC) held its 2012 Annual Meeting at the Whiting Community Center October 24. The event, featuring Tide Mill Organic Farm’s Aaron Bell as guest speaker, underscored how local, grassroots economic development efforts such as Mobilize Down East Maine are moving Washington County forward.

“There are many, many things that we’re proud of, that we’re expanding upon, as we listen and gather feedback from the business leaders of our region” Executive Director Harold Clossey said. “We’ve got to be ready to take advantage of opportunities in Washington County when they come along. It isn’t luck. It isn’t rolling the dice. It’s being ready to receive them, having the infrastructure in place, having the workforce in place, and having the educational pieces together.”

Clossey identified two key areas – the increase of nontraditional, secondary lending and investment capital into the county and the Mobilize Down East Maine effort.

“In 2006, we had three delinquent loans totaling about $100,000 and $7,000 to lend,” Clossey said. “We’ve turned that around just a little bit. This year, our leverage is a minimum of $5.1 million in this region in capital investments. That’s where we’ve gone. What we’re looking at now is how we can expand that access to capital, because we hear that over and over and over from the businesses that we work with.”

SCEC Project Manager Larry Saunders, who joined the organization in June, explained that the Mobilize Down East Maine effort is gearing up, and that its leadership team of 33 business and community leaders has pinpointed several specific goals that will move Washington County forward over the next five years.

“We’re going to identify all of the assets, one street at a time, one neighborhood at a time, one municipality at a time, and one area at a time, to see how we can best utilize them to the fullest of our their capacity,” Saunders said.“Within five years, what could be different in Washington County? We hope to add 500 direct new jobs, increase the skills and employment opportunities for 1600 people, and potentially add 950 indirect and induced jobs. We hope to increase the income in Washington County by $25 million in direct new wages, and add $18 million in indirect and induced wages for a total of $43 million. We hope to lift 2300 people above the poverty level. The goals are very reachable.”

Saunders will be hosting a series of asset-mapping meetings across the county this fall, to gather feedback from Washington County’s business community. For specifics, please visit SCEC’s online events calendar at

Bell Exemplifies ‘Can MOO’ Attitude, Collaboration of Down East Maine Farmers

Tide Mill Organic Farm’s Aaron Bell, whose ninth generation family farm distributes organic milk products under the MOOMilk brand, emphasized how collaboration and a “Can MOO” attitude are changing the economy Down East.

“There’s a reason why 1% of the population is feeding the other 99%. It’s incredibly challenging. It’s a global marketplace, and it’s certainly a national marketplace. What we were trying to do was be a small little milk company made up of farms in Washington and Aroostook counties primarily, competing with national brands that pay hundreds of thousands for shelf space,” he said. “We quickly ran out of money, and had to pull a loan together to keep the company rolling. SCEC was a partner, sitting at the table, with everybody from other economic groups to private investors from the state of Maine.”

Bell went on to say that while MOOMilk has seen its ups and downs in recent years, support from organizations like SCEC and Coastal Enterprises, Inc., as well as private investment, have changed the company’s long-term prospects.

“What MOOMilk is is something the market wants,” Bell said. “We all hope that things are improving, and I know that they are because…our sales are growing. We’ve gone from just under 5,000 units a week to just over 6,000. What that tells us is that if people do know what the brand is, or as people hear about us, we do have something they want. What we are is an authentic milk company and an authentic brand. People see that right away.”

SCEC also announced its 2013 Board of Directors. Officers include Josh Bragg of CES (Chair), Sheridan Smith of Border Electric (Vice Chair), Tina Erskine of Washington County Community College (Secretary), and Blaine Jones of Bangor Savings Bank (Treasurer). Will Hatt of Bar Harbor Bank & Trust and Meredith Snowman of the Boston Shoe Store in Calais will be joining SCEC’s board. Council officials also recognized retiring board member Leola Carter of Bayside/4 Corners Shop ‘n’ Save for her service.

Founded in 1993, SCEC initiates and facilitate the creation of jobs and prosperity in Washington County. The Council can be reached by phone at 207-255-0983 (Machias) or 207-259-5004 (Calais) or online at For more information, please contact SCEC Communications Manager Will Tuell at

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