WATERVILLE — If you want to start a business in Maine or are having problems with your existing business, help is a phone call away.

That message was touted repeatedly Thursday by Deb Neuman, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

Neuman spoke to 42 business people, educators and others Thursday at Thomas College during a business breakfast hosted by the college and Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce.

Neuman cited a number of ways the state is trying to be more business friendly and help people start businesses and expand existing ones.

She is part of the Governor’s Account Executives Team, a new panel she helped create that works with businesses to help them identify goals and figure out what they need to do to succeed.

The team works from the premise that a business owner does not have to know all of the programs, people, resources and requirements necessary to run a business; that is the team’s job, according to Neuman. The team makes contacts and brings in the appropriate experts and partners to help.

“The team is just amazing,” Newman said. “We can often bring some good ideas to the table or good people to the table.”

The team also works within state government to help business people navigate permitting and licensing processes.

Neuman cited a case in which her department helped Mt. Abram ski resort in Greenwood after a lightning strike burned down its lodge in July. The owner, she said, was nervous about getting all the necessary permits in place and rebuilding in time for the winter season.

Neuman worked with him and got all of the necessary public safety, fire and other officials together to get the project off the ground.

“Everyone sat around the table and we worked through it,” she said. “We had some bumps along the way, but we were able to do it.”

Neuman, of Bangor, hosts the “Back to Business” talk radio show on WVOM, which airs on stations throughout New England. Her guests include people in business who talk about what works for them and what does not.

Neuman grew up in Pennsylvania and spent summers in Maine with her family on property they bought many years ago in Steuben. She graduated from University of the Pacific in California, but wanted to live in Maine year-round so she moved to Bar Harbor while in her 20s. She worked at an inn, ultimately running it. She then decided she needed her own business, so she found a banker.

“It was his first day, so he made the loan,” she said, to laughter from the group.

She bought an inn and later owned a tour boat company. Six years ago, she started her radio show.

Before starting her job with the state in July, she was director of the Target Technology Center at the University of Maine and was a business development specialist, counselor and lender for Eastern Maine Development Corp. She also was on Gov. Paul LePage’s transition team, providing ideas about the needs of small businesses and ways to help them start and expand.

“I’m truly passionate about small business, having been there, done that,” she said.

Neuman said her department also has the Business Answers Program in which members of the Governor’s Account Executives Team take telephone calls from businesses wanting to know everything from what types of permits they need to whether the team can help with a current business crisis.

The team does not just hand out brochures to businesses seeking help; rather, it contacts people who can help them, she said.

“We don’t just want to kind of send you off,” she said.

She likened the team to a primary care physician for businesses.

“You come in, you tell us about your headaches and what’s going on and we oversee your business health,” she said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

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