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Rural Roundtable: Strengthening Maine’s Economy

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel; Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development Dallas Tonsager (right) ; and Maine Congressman Michael Michaud at a Rural Roundtable in Maine  About two dozen Maine business leaders discussed business development issues with Federal officials.

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel; Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development Dallas Tonsager (right) ; and Maine Congressman Michael Michaud at a Rural Roundtable in Maine About two dozen Maine business leaders discussed business development issues with Federal officials.

It was a unique opportunity for Maine leaders to share their thoughts on the challenges and prospects for Maine’s economy at a Rural Roundtable held earlier this month, at the Rural Development State Office in Bangor. The Roundtable, facilitated by USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Virginia Manuel, brought the participants together with Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager and Maine Congressman Michael Michaud for a candid discussion.

The nearly two dozen leaders representing business, academia, and economic and community development, shared what keeps them awake at night about their business or organization, resulting in a dynamic conversation geared towards promoting economic and business growth, development of renewable energy, accelerating hiring, and spurring innovation in rural communities across Maine.

Under Secretary Tonsager said, “This was an immense opportunity to hear from Maine’s dynamic leaders in business, academia, and economic and community development, and to gain insight on how we can create opportunities that will spur economic growth, capitalize on the ingenuity of Maine people, and strengthen the local economy.”

Participants of the Rural Roundtable included Lawrence M. Barrett, President of Eastern Maine Community College. The college will benefit from a USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant, which adds it to a virtual network that will provide access for adult learners throughout rural Maine to improve their employability and obtain marketable technical skills.

Also in attendance was Claudia Raessler, Owner, SuriPaco, LLC, an independent family-owned farm based in Yarmouth, which was selected to receive a USDA Rural Development Value-Added Producer Grant.  SuriPaco will use the funds for business planning and marketing for a specialty, high-end luxury alpaca fiber in the textile market through a mid-tier value chain.

In addition, Anthony Buxton, Esq. and Richard Silkman, Principal, Kennebec Valley Gas Company, joined in the dialogue. The company is proposing an $86 million pipeline for central Maine. The 56-mile natural gas pipeline would serve 12 rural Maine communities and bring the first natural gas supply to the Kennebec Valley region for industrial, commercial, and consumers in central Maine.

The participants’ comments were recorded and will be reported to Washington. The event is one in a series of roundtables being held across the nation with senior Obama Administration officials on behalf of the White House Business Council.

To learn more about how USDA Rural Development business programs can help produce jobs in your area, click here.

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