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ORGANIZERS HARD AT WORK ADVANCING CREATIVE ECONOMY PLAN FOR THE ST. JOHN VALLEY

June 2, 2008

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Officials from the University of Maine at Fort Kent and the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine in Orono are meeting regularly to advance the development of a Creative Economy business plan for the St. John Valley. 

The Creative Economy concept is an outgrowth of an earlier forum on people working together as a region to identify new opportunities and alternative approaches to development. 

At the heart of the concept is the Valley’s ability to capitalize on its strongest, renewable, and inherent resources:  artistic traditions, cultural heritage, and landscape.   

The Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center is providing technical assistance and planning for the project.  Local cultural consultant, Sheila Jans, is coordinating community involvement and outreach. UMFK faculty and staff, along with their colleagues on the Orono campus, will work in partnership on student-conducted visitor intercept surveys at four major ethnic/cultural festivals held in the St. John valley each year: the Maine Winter Sports Center Biathlon World Cup, the Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Race, the Acadian Festival in Madawaska, and the Tour de la Vallée bike race. 

The two campuses will work together on developing enhanced curricula and programs, and outreach mechanisms, as well as establishing the Center for Rural Sustainable Development on the UMFK campus as a Valley-wide resource for student innovation and rural entrepreneurship. 

The creative economy business plan is expected to include concrete information about the timeframe, programs, service delivery mechanisms, funding sources, and the partners necessary to achieve the plan. 

It will serve as the basis for the Valley’s anticipated submission of a Rural Business Enterprise Grant in 2008. Additionally, the plan will provide recommendations for strengthening the Valley’s capacity for regionally-based creative economy planning, and arts and cultural-related business and tourism development.   

The Creative Economy business plan is funded by a $49,837 United States Department of Agriculture rural development grant, which was presented to UMFK President, Dr. Richard W. Cost last September by USDA State Director, Michael W. Aube.  The USDA grant represents a significant portion of the project’s total one-year budget of $118,483.