FREEPORT — The Freeport Economic Development Corp. shared its 2009 priorities with the Town Council in a workshop Tuesday, including updates on a proposed business park, a food cluster development, a Chamber of Commerce and a train station project.
Executive Director Sande Updegraph said the possibilities of new development, business retention and expansion are exciting.
“There is some good stuff coming,” she said.
Updegraph said she is in the “beginning phases” of discussions about a business park along the east side of Route 1 South. She said Brunswick and Topsham may not be able to support a business park due to environmental and zoning issues, but there are 140 acres available to create one in Freeport. She said she has attended meetings with developers and councilors from Brunswick, Topsham, Lisbon and Richmond in order to work out a regional partnership.
“We do not aim to provide heavy manufacturing in the area,” she said. “We would like to provide intermediate business space for offices and clean industry.”
She said by the end of April there will be an opportunity for the landowners, Planning Department, town manager and FEDC board to discuss the business park at length.
Another regional idea presented to the council was a food cluster development. Updegraph said the idea has been in the works for about nine months, and includes a “coalition of food-related enterprises through the Mid-Coast.”
She said local farmers, fisherman, food suppliers, processors and shippers would be able to join forces and use Freeport as a storefront to sell Maine products.
“Freeport has the retail aspect, it touches the Mid-Coast, and we have producers of Maine products here in town,” she said, referring to Cold River Vodka and Wilbur’s chocolates.
There are still cluster and planning grants in the works, Updegraph said, but the concept is “moving rapidly forward.”
In addition to a food cluster, FEDC has created a dining guide for restaurants in town. Updegraph said the idea is similar to the Brunswick dining guide, and will be an additional way to promote businesses in Freeport.
“FEDC needs to be able to maintain support for every business in town,” she said. “This is one good way to support the business community in a tangible way.”
Updegraph also said the addition of a Chamber of Commerce in Freeport is still being developed, and progress has been made. Discussions continue with the Freeport Merchants Association and the chamber task force, and changes have been made to the original proposal that please all three players.
She said changes include a “slimmed-down” management structure, a new tiered and lowered fee schedule, and a larger outreach area. Updegraph said new ideas will be unveiled by mid-April.
“We are very close, but not all the details have been hammered out,” she said.
Council Joe Migliaccio encouraged discussions between the FEDC and the Planning Board and with landowners who will be affected by future development.
“Talk to the town, have a charrette and get input,” he said.
Updegraph said she will plan on attending council meetings to give updates on future projects.
“The goal is to have better communication with the Town Council and the public,” she said. “There is a lot happening down the line.”