MADISON — Town officials and business owners say they are hopeful that recent recognition by the state as a Certified Business-Friendly Community will help attract new businesses to the area and further improve the economic climate for existing businesses.

During a presentation Monday, the state Department of Economic and Community Development recognized the town with the business friendly certification, which is based on a self-review process and evaluation by the state. Criteria include efforts to attract new business, the willingness of businesses to form partnerships with the community and local schools and efforts to improve water, sewer, high-speed Internet and other utility services important to running a successful business.

One factor cited in making the town more business friendly is the availability of natural gas as an energy source.

“Growing tomatoes in Maine in the winter isn’t the easiest thing,” said Stuart Jablon, president and chief operating officer at Backyard Farms. “Increasing electrical costs around New England have been one of our biggest challenges.”

The commercial tomato greenhouse, which came to Madison in 2006, recently connected to a newly laid natural gas pipeline, which Jablon said will help lower energy costs, but even before natural gas, a variety of options for heat and electricity, including good electric rates through Madison’s community-owned utilities district helped attract and keep Backyard Farms operable, he said.

The Business-Friendly Community program was started by the LePage administration in 2012 and has so far recognized 30 communities across the state, including Augusta, Richmond, Fairfield and Pittsfield.

The owner of one long-standing family business in town said the recognition can help to spur additional investment in the town.

“I’m hoping this will help put Madison on the map,” said Rob Shibley, the third-generation owner of Bob’s Cash Fuel, a heating and propane business. “Our business is growing all the time, and it’s little things like this that can do a lot for the area. These things help.”

The chairwoman of a community group working to promote local businesses said the designation will bring additional attention to a combination of factors that make Madison business friendly.

“I think this is huge. It’s really positive for us,” said Rhonda Emerson, of the Madison Business Alliance. “I’m really hopeful that this designation along with the fact that we have low utility costs, utility options and an able workforce will work together to bring more business to the area.”

The business alliance worked with Tim Curtis, the town’s consultant for economic development, to submit the application for the designation in May. Madison was one of three towns, including Southwest Harbor and Van Buren, to receive the bi-annual recognition.

“The board is very supportive of this,” said Jack Ducharme, vice chairman of the Board of Selectmen. “With all of the challenges we’ve been up against lately, I’m glad this is something we were able to get done. It’s one of those things we’ve been slowly working towards for a long time.”

Brian Mulligan, of the governor’s office, presented the town with two signs recognizing Madison as business friendly. The signs will be put up on U.S. Route 201 and Route 148 leading into town.

Backyard Farms’ Jablon said being known for being business friendly can help lure new business that will help existing companies.

“I think if more business comes to the area it will help us,” Jablon said. “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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