ELLSWORTH —It may not be very visible, but the Ellsworth Business Development Corp. (EBDC) is here and working. That was the message from board members presenting to councilors at a meeting on Monday evening.
“EBDC is a collaborator, not a competitor,” said Board Chairman John Fitzpatrick. “A resource to help implement economic development strategy.” The organization is an independent nonprofit created in 2013 to help the city achieve some of its economic goals, leveraging grants and funds not available to cities, without being forced to conduct proceedings in the public eye.
“We are able to work outside of the municipal constraints,” said Fitzpatrick. “We can work out and have private discussions with developers without making the public record. There’s a lot of folks that are interested in coming into the city but don’t want to let their intentions be known early on. That’s where EBDC can come in and have those discussions in confidence, while all the while following the city’s leads and the city’s goals.”
The group has spearheaded projects ranging from the development of the city’s broadband infrastructure to the opening of the Union River Center for Innovation and is currently in the midst of helping raise funds to repair or replace the Hancock County Technical Center. School officials say they have been frustrated with the 40-year-old building’s limitations for some time, and EBDC board members felt they could find a way to fix the space (or replace) faster than going through the state’s process, which can take years.
The goal is to create a “recruiting pipeline” that can help fill jobs in the area “while also providing the opportunity for good-paying employment for future generations,” said Fitzpatrick.
“It’s really that long-term strategic thinking about providing opportunities for our graduating seniors,” said Council Chairman Dale Hamilton.
Public records show the group had just shy of $93,000 in assets as of November last year. The board is run by volunteers who are not financially compensated for their time, according to records.
The nonprofit has nine official board members, said Fitzpatrick, with backgrounds in fields ranging from law and finance to retail and health care, as well as ex-officio members, among them recently retired City Manager David Cole and City Councilor John Phillips. Apart from Fitzpatrick, board members include Tony McKim, CEO of The First, John Ronan, president of Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital, Curtis Simard, CEO of Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, Micki Sumpter, director of the Mount Desert Chamber of Commerce, Teri Sargent Smith, co-owner of Sargent Real Estate, Jake Taylor, vice president of Wallace Events, Kevin Tesseo, executive vice president of Darling’s, and Renee Kelly, assistant vice president for innovation and economic development for the University of Maine. Three new board members — Michelle Beal, Matt Boles and Michele Francis — will be coming on to the board in October, said Fitzpatrick.
“A group of high-achieving, results-oriented individuals,” said Fitzpatrick.