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Economic developer idea nixed
RUMFORD -- At a workshop two weeks ago between selectmen and the Economic Development committee, Town Manager Carlo Puiia said there seemed to be a concensus to consider hiring someone to recruit new businesses to town.
However, following a lengthy discussion on Thursday, selectmen voted 3-2 to defeat a motion to hire someone to work 20 hours a week to do this.
Selectmen Jeff Sterling and Chairman Brad Adley voted to hire; Selectmen Jeremy Volkernick, Greg Buccina and Mark Belanger dissented.
Volkernick said it's the responsibility of the town manager, the Board of Selectmen and the River Valley Growth Council to bring business into town. "I'd like to see Carlo dedicate one hour per week to this."
"I do not want to hire a part-time economic developer at this time. I don't think it's too much to ask for one hour a week of the town manager. Let's take it upon ourselves," he said.
Volkernick then cited his efforts to bring a franchise business to Rumford, like Arby's and Tim Hortons.
“I will tell you that Arby's is looking to come to Rumford if we can find a developer,” he said. Such a project would cost $300,000 to $400,000, Volkernick said he was told by an Arby's owner.
He said he worked for two months to bring a Tim Hortons restaurant to town, but that failed when he later learned the company was downsizing and closing 30 of the restaurants.
Volkernick said he contacted another business, but wouldn't reveal it, and then made vague comments that it would be a positive step.
"2011 is going to be positive. I know good things are coming to Rumford," he said.
Sterling referred to the old adage, "You have to spend it to make it. Sometimes you need to roll the dice and see what happens."
Buccina said he agreed with Volkernick. "You get what you pay for. I'd say wait until June; either this or fund the Growth Council."
Belanger said the economic development fund has "turned into a slush fund of sorts. We keep throwing money like this without any planning."
Paying someone $7,000 from that account to contact businesses 20 hours a week for six months isn't worth it, he said.
“That would be an easy $7,000 for someone to make. It seems like an experiment, and we've done a lot of experiments and not gotten many fruits,” said Belanger.
In another economic development matter, while he did not release all the results of the study, Puiia said that a branded hotel feasibility study revealed that attracting a brand name hotel such as Holiday Inn, or Comfort Inn, like the new one in Wilton, is viable for this area.
He said the study, researched and written by Thomas C. Blake of the northeast branch of Colliers International's PKF Consulting USA, recommends a 50-room franchise hotel on U.S. Route 2 with an indoor pool and serving a continental breakfast. Such a hotel would be smaller than the 86-room Comfort Inn in Wilton.
They also stated that the study would help promote the development of such a project to potential developers to provide good quality lodging accommodations and support economic development in town.
Puiia said the report also indicated that the report said "based on the success of the new Comfort Inn and Suites, as well as our research of the existing lodging supply, we believe the market has historically been in part, constrained by the lack of good quality lodging supply in the market area.”
The document states that Rumford has high potential demand for quality lodging due to its location on the Androscoggin River in the Maine Lakes and Mountains region, and its proximity to extensive maintained and tracked snowmobile trails.
Blake said the 100-acre site for the new 65,000-square-foot Black Bear Oxford Resort Casino, restaurant and lounge, expected to open next December on Route 26, is 36 miles from Rumford.
Puiia said this is a marketing tool that can be used to sell the project. As a result of newspaper articles on the study, "there is some interest that's already been expressed."
"When we get the full report, we'll talk more about it," he added.
Regarding the economic development subject, Buccina noted, "For now, let's go after this hotel."
Belanger added, "Pay someone to facilitate this project and make it happen."