November 28, 2012

Fairfield named business-friendly town by state

Designation puts town's name on "Open for Business" sign

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling
Staff Writer

FAIRFIELD -- Fairfield is the latest town to receive an open for business designation as part of a state program to recognize communities for being business friendly.

Town Manager Josh Reny said he hopes the label, announced Tuesday, will encourage businesses to take a second look at the town as a good place to conduct business.

"We might not have a huge industrial base, but we do have a very pro-business attitude and regulatory environment," Reny said.

Fairfield will get a Business Friendly Community Designation program's signature Open for Business sign and become part of Gov. Paul LePage's push to make Maine a more attractive place for business development. Since the program was started in March, 18 of the 29 communities that have applied for the designation have been approved.

The announcement, made Tuesday by the state's Department of Economic and Community Development, praised Fairfield's application, which it said "showcased its positive efforts to create and retain jobs. The town networks and collaborates with regional economic and community development entities, such as the Central Maine Growth Council, on a broad range of development initiatives."

Ellsworth, Kennebunk and Topsham were also identified Tuesday as newly certified business friendly communities.

Bruce Harrington, chairman of Fairfield's Economic and Community Development Advisory Committee, said the application process took two or three months of concerted effort from committee members.

The town reviewed its business fee structure and found it to be comparable with other communities in the area during the process, he said.

Fairfield features that will appeal to businesses include access to three Interstate exits, a zoned industrial area and several storefront vacancies on Main Street, Harrington said.

Main Street businesses can also benefit from a state grant the town coordinated that will match money spent on facade improvements.

Reny said that the town has worked successfully with area businesses in recent years to create a broader tax base.

Family Dollar opened in town this year, Reny pointed out. The town has also helped packaging manufacturing firm Huhtamaki to expand, he said.

The historic Gerald Hotel is being turned into residential apartments for seniors, a development deal that needed the town's involvement to help secure tax credits. Reny said he expects papers to be signed on the sale of the hotel Friday.

While applications can be submitted at any time, certifications in the business friendly community program are awarded quarterly.

Harrington said that he would encourage other communities in the area to apply.

"I think it sends a message that central Maine is a good place to do business," he said.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling -- 861-9287

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