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Business organizations present 'Economic Vision for Scarborough'

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Business organizations present 'Economic Vision for Scarborough'

SCARBOROUGH — A year-long collaboration between two local business organizations has culminated in a working blueprint for Scarborough's economic development.

And it didn't cost the town a dime.

In meetings during the summer of 2008, public policy/economic affairs committees of the Scarborough Economic Development Corp. (SEDCO) and the Scarborough Community Chamber concluded that the town needed a written guide for economic development. After receiving a nod from the town and the two boards, a joint committee, which included town staff and council participation, began exploring a process to determine what was important to the town's business people and residents.

Led by local resident and PolicyOne Research Inc. President Jim Damicis, who volunteered his time for the project, the group met with more than 50 local business leaders during 10 focus group sessions delineated by industry. Their responses formed the cornerstone of the final product, "Economic Development Vision for Scarborough."

The document highlights the vision's 10 components with action statements broken down into individual goals to satisfy each component.

The document is a tool that will give the town direction for creating ordinances, identifying zoning and wooing commercial development within the parameters of what's important to the people who live and currently operate businesses in the town.

"It's going to help spread the responsibility for implementation for economic and commercial development beyond just the town officials," Damicis said. "A lot of times, visions and strategies are government-centric. While this recognizes a town role it also recognizes it touches citizens and taxpayers. You can't rely on a government-centric strategy; you have to get everybody involved."

It is just what Damicis has called "the starting point" of what will be a long-term process. Volunteers agree the hardest work – developing strategies to implement the vision – has yet to be done.

"We'll convene sometime after the New Year and work out ways to move forward," Damicis said.

He plans to work on one vision area at a time and work on reaching out and including community stakeholders in their discussions as they begin drafting policies and recommendations.

In preparing the document, volunteers discovered few surprises and many points were constantly reinforced by the input, committee member Kevin Freeman said. The survey did confirm the effectiveness of the work that has been done by town officials and town government, he said.

"What was most surprising to me was the fact that the 10 points that came out of our visioning process – from business owners, hospitality, senior citizens, industry... – our 10 synced up with what our town had as a plan last year," Freeman said.

Freeman said he and others have estimated the cost to hire a consultant like Damicis to generate this kind of report, and it would have cost the town between $35,000 and $50,000.

"Jim (Damicis) is a tremendous resource," Freeman said. "We'd have Jim direct us and we'd be kind of the worker bees to start this process. He did a great job of keeping us on task and his leadership through it all was excellent and, as usual, Julie Basset (SEDCO assistant director) did a great job working behind the scenes."

Freeman predicts the document will influence future ordinances, the planning process and how officials look at highly-rated features in town, like education and sustainable energy.

"I think the (vision document) will help in the future to assist town officials and elected officials go through this planning, better-positioning Scarborough from an economic perspective," Freeman said. "We want to work with other groups in town and just make Scarborough a better community."

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.