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Freeport business group has 4-pronged economic 'Vision'

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Freeport business group has 4-pronged economic 'Vision'

FREEPORT — The town's economic future can be boiled down to four goals: Expanding outdoor recreation, preserving the waterfront, creating better visibility for smaller, locally owned businesses, and non-retail development.

At least that's the conclusion the quasi-public Freeport Economic Development Corp. has reached after holding public meetings last fall and paying a consulting firm to study the town's economic future.

The group calls the framework "Vision 2025."

"It's a plan for the future that aligns closely with the Comprehensive Plan of the town," Sande Updegraph, FEDC executive director, said. "(The Town Council's) plan doesn't define what kind of development. This is a to-d0 list to go with the council's plan."

The FEDC will hold a public meeting to discuss the privately funded plan at 6 p.m., Aug. 15, at the Hilton Garden Inn, 5 Park St..

The meeting will be run by the New York and Scarborough-based consulting firm Camoin Associates, which will randomly separate people into groups to discuss the selected topics, Updegraph said.

The discussion will center around four ideas that resulted from interviews with business owners and public meetings:

• Development of outdoor recreation infrastructure such as, fields and trails.

• Waterfront access for tourists.

• Establishing better access to small businesses by creating better signs and changing traffic patterns.

• And attracting light manufacturing to Freeport to create a more diverse economy.

These ideas stem from about two dozen, one-on-one interviews conducted by Camoin with small-business owners and representatives from large companies. They also draw from public meetings held last year.

Although the framework has received input from business owners and non-owners alike, not all opinions carry the same weight, Updegraph said.

"I can't say everything is equal, but it's not unequal," she said. "We're not trying to drive an agenda. We just hope to get guidance from people who live and work here."

Updegraph said most of those interviewed were business owners who live in the area, although at least one was from out of state. No national brands were interviewed, she said.

In the three public meetings last fall, attendance ranged from 20 to 75. Updegraph said she hopes as many show up for the August meeting, but is doubtful.

"I hope we get a good turnout, but here's the dilemma: it's August," she said, which means people are likely on vacation or staying outside in the summer weather. 

The meeting could be held later, but Updegraph said they hope to have the plan wrapped up by mid-October.

In 2000, town government, business leaders and planners developed a similar plan called, "Vision 2010," which focused on the Village District.

Most of the recommendations that developed out that plan were realized, Updegraph said.

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or wgraff@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.