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New group hopes to attract businesses to greater Portland

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New group hopes to attract businesses to greater Portland

PORTLAND — A new organization wants towns in greater Portland to play nice in the sandbox – and, by doing so, to attract new businesses.

The Greater Portland Economic Development Corp. aims to bring together officials from Portland, South Portland, Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth and Westbrook in an effort to lure businesses not just to the individual towns, but to the metropolitan area.

"Most of the economic development in Maine is from companies moving from one town to another within Maine," Scarborough Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Harvey Rosenfeld said. "We've been doing very well (in Scarborough) while other communities have lost. That doesn't build regional economic development. We need to bring new businesses to the area."

Rosenfeld said in 2007 the towns of Westbrook, Scarborough and South Portland pooled their resources and went to a trade show in Boston to promote the greater Portland area. Since then, the towns have continued to work together, creating brochures and sending representatives to various promotional events.

"Everybody knows Maine as a vacation spot. When we mention locating a business here, they act like it's the end of the world," Rosenfeld said. "We have to explain that we're only two hours from Boston."

Rosenfeld said a company from Kansas considers communities like Scarborough and South Portland to basically all be part of Portland.

South Portland, Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth have all signed on to the program. Portland and Westbrook are expected to take up the initiative by the end of the year.

Rosenfeld said funding for the organization's efforts will first come from non-municipal sources, such a federal grants. Once the group has a track record, he said, the goal would be to ask the participating municipalities to chip in.

The same group of towns has already been working together as part of the METRO Coalition, a group started by the Greater Portland Coalition of Governments that began to work together on public transportation issues across town lines.

In the first year, Rosenfeld said the group hopes to establish a board of directors to oversee operations, including the creation of a marketing plan and budget. Members of the board will include town-appointed representatives, Greater Portland Chamber of Commerce members and industry representatives.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net