About the INITIATIVE
The Greater East Grand Region economic planning initiative was created because of the need to address regional economic decline, an aging population and lack of opportunity for area youth. The historical, business, health and educational connections to the cross-county area of Danforth and Weston and the initiatives associated with school district RSU84/MSAD 14 East Grand School located in Danforth provided much needed momentum.
The belief that out-migration, aging population, political and governmental divisions and a diminishing natural resource-based economy has destined this region to a declining quality of life is ever-present. Our demographics include some of the oldest towns in Maine and a total region-wide population of just under 1800 people — a mark that is fifty percent of the region’s high point in 1920.
"We believe that engaged residents inspired by a collaborative and coordinated economic development plan can turn the regional assets into opportunities."
It is not by chance or without cause that we now embark on an economic plan for this remote region of Eastern Maine. Decades of decline, particularly from systemic changes in the forest products and farming industries have rendered havoc on our communities, some to the extreme. Other communities with substantial lake neighborhoods have been able to slow the impact of rural decline through hard work and perseverance.
Since 2014, citizen groups, key community leaders, civic-minded landowners, creative business people and outside sources of funding have helped foster huge investments of time, energy and volunteerism in the well-being of some of our communities and in local education. These investments have produced returns, and we believe the hurdles the region has can be turned into strengths.
For many reasons, including the large size and diverse landscape of the of the Greater East Grand Region, the area has been the recipient of millions of dollars of investments over the past several years. Those investors include foundations, government, conservation organizations (local and national), family owned timberland entities, private cottage owners, and local businesses and individuals. The combined capital from philanthropic to corporate, individual and public sources would total over 100 million dollars.
Investments include seed monies for innovations at the health clinic and school; a new federal rehab facility; nearly fifty thousand acres of newly conserved and publicly owned lands; many thousands of acres of former paper company lands now in the hands of family owned (many with roots in the region and in Maine), community minded, working forest landowners; private cottage owners who invested life savings in upgrading dozens of lakefront cottages on formerly “leased land”; local business people who put at risk capital to diversify into much needed hospitality services; logging contractors and farm families who in the face of a declining economy continue to upgrade equipment, improve land and seek opportunities to diversify; and new owners of long held sporting camps wishing to carry on a lifestyle legacy. These are but a sampling of the underlying, unsung and, to a great degree, unplanned recent investments in the well-being and fabric of the Greater East Grand Region.
It is with a sense of urgency that we capitalize on these recent developments and take full advantage of prior investments and the region’s assets. Challenges and threats to the economic viability of the Region are real.
Confidence is high that our basic quality of life issues can be successfully sustained. State and federal decisions about critically important infrastructure, like high-speed broadband, demand that we must have a credible local voice of economic advocacy backed by a publicly approved platform from which to act. No one can do this for us.
As citizens of once flourishing settlements of loggers, farmers and entrepreneurs, we are reclaiming our rural heritage and true sense of community. As new-found pioneers, we are striving to build local and far-reaching partnerships in education and economic vitality to advance towards our 2030 vision.
By 2030, the Greater East Grand Region is a stable, unified constellation of remote, rural, welcoming communities that collaborate to attract and retain people of all ages to live, work, visit and play.
Working Group Members
The initial public meeting in May, 2019 introduced the planning effort and invited participation by all that were interested. A project steering committee was formed and topic-focused small work groups initiated to do more comprehensive planning on several key economic development opportunities:
The Steering Committee included Elbridge Cleaves, Judy Cleaves, Dwayne Young, Ardis Brown, Jackie Morse, Peggy White, Denise and Wayne Smith and Heather Zakupowsky.
The Recreational Infrastructure work group included Elbridge Cleaves, Colin Brown, Kyle Burdick, Dwayne Young, Dave Conley and Sue Swead. Snowmobile and ATV club leadership from the region provided important input.
The recently formed GEGR Broadband Task Force is co-chaired by Dwayne Young and Jennifer Fronczak and includes Ardis Brown, Elbridge Cleaves, Peggy White, Jessica Potter, Carolyn Fickett, Kyle Burdick and Susan Hatton.
Maine Community Foundation
Washington County Unorganized Territory TIF
ConnectMaine Authority (State of Maine Department of Economic and Community Development)
Lakeville Shores, Inc.
Machias Savings Bank
Sarah Strickland, Strategic Wisdom Partners, Robbinston