SKOWHEGAN — A $20,600 package of services to help cover the cost of starting a business in downtown Skowhegan is the prize in an “entrepreneur challenge,” with the winner taking home payroll services, financial consulting, banking services and more.

The contest is sponsored by Main Street Skowhegan, Skowhegan Savings Bank and other business leaders and organizations.

“You could call it a contest,” said Dugan Murphy, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan. “It’s an economic development program, but the way we’re going about it is in a contest format, and that’s why we’re using the word ‘challenge.'”

Murphy said the program is modeled after similar projects by Main Street groups in Biddeford and Gardiner. The local model is the brainchild of the Skowhegan Business Enhancement Committee, which connected Main Street Skowhegan and Skowhegan Savings, where bank managers wanted to contribute more to economic development in town in some way other than by just making donations, Murphy said.

The challenge involves a $10,000 forgivable loan from the bank to start a new business or to expand or move an existing business, but the move must be from one downtown location to another. Murphy said downtown’s boundary is defined as being roughly from the island near the Federated Church, up Madison Avenue to High Street and over to North Avenue, where it meets Water Street, and back along Water Street to the island.

The forgivable loan is for a five-year fixed term, with the principal forgiven in stages over that period. The money is strictly for fixed assets and business equipment, not for working capital, Murphy said.

The program will be run in three phases, with the final phase resulting in one business receiving the package of benefits amounting to $20,600 in services. Other participants may be eligible for some benefits, too, from additional donations of services by the business community, Murphy said.

The program begins with phase one, in which each entrepreneur attends a Starting Your Maine Business seminar on Sept. 1 at Skowhegan Savings. A one- or two-page business concept pitch will be developed from the seminar and delivered to program officials by Sept. 24.

Phase two of the program calls for each participant to attend a Creating Your Maine Business Plan seminar in October, with a fully developed business plan on paper by Nov. 13.

Each participant then will present his or her final business plan to the Main Street selection committee in January, when a winner will be selected, according to Murphy.

Services included in the winner’s package include consulting services, a free website from a local Web designer, free membership in the Chamber of Commerce, bookkeeping or payroll services for the first year, carpentry services for needed remodeling, reduced rent downtown, a one-hour photo session, three months of Internet access and up to two phone lines.

“To be eligible, you have to have a brand-new business that you’re starting or a new location for an existing business,” Murphy said. “If you just want to move your business from one location, say from Madison or Portland to Skowhegan, that’s not eligible. That’s called poaching. We don’t do poaching.”

Murphy said 13 people already have expressed interest in the challenge.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


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