NORRIDGEWOCK — When the newly-chosen Board of Selectmen were seated in March, they were tasked with coming up with goals for their tenure. After much discussion, the group narrowed this list to community improvement, economic development and “just real resilience with the town.”

In response, the five selectmen agreed to create a part-time economic development specialist position, with an application that went live Monday.

“The current chair has prioritized goal-setting and community economic development,” Town Manager Richard LaBelle said, speaking about Matthew Everett. “The board has worked diligently to define its goals and develop a plan to progress Norridgewock forward, fostering the development of business without sacrificing the small-town feel.”

Norridgewock Town Manager Richard LaBelle, shown in 2016 at his office. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

The town serves just over 3,300 residents, is home to Waste Management’s Crossroads Landfill, New Balance and the Central Maine Regional Airport and employs about 15 people. The town’s tax base primarily comes from Waste Management and the host benefit fees. LaBelle added that while this is great support for the town, that money is primarily targeted toward roadway improvements.

“That’s where we go,” LaBelle said. “It’s not sustainable to rely on one taxpayer. We’re a small community, and we’re at a crossroads. We aren’t a service center but we aren’t a bedroom community.”

Up until spring 2019, the town had the Norridgewock Area Chamber of Commerce, which had been operating for more than three decades. However, due to a lack of community participation and the passing of the former chamber president, Bob Gilcott, the group decided to disband in March 2019.

Since there have been a few discussions among local business owners about recreating a local business group, but this has yet to come to fruition.

LaBelle said that after various discussions with the board over the last few months, it became clear that there was a need for the part-time position because the responsibilities that are listed in the description either are not currently being covered or fall onto him. This includes staffing the town’s Tax Increment Financing Committee and pulling together economic development initiatives.

“After a couple of (selectmen) meetings, it just kind of clicked with me and the chair,” LaBelle said. “We could identify that there’s a definite need, and we had to look at how to bridge that gap.”

The town is seeking applicants that are able to commit 20-24 hours a week; starting pay rate is $20 an hour, but if a candidate brings certain skills to the table, that pay rate can be negotiated. Funding for the position comes from the town’s TIF funds.

“We understand that there is great value in flexibility, so we are willing to accommodate that in the work schedule,” LaBelle said.

As the town’s Economic Development Specialist, the employee is expected to coordinate with town staff in all areas of economic development and work with the community, businesses and other governmental organizations to accomplish these tasks.

Many of the goals for the town include the development of small businesses that will, in turn, diversify the town’s tax base and keep the tax rate low.

“It’s about relationship building and making those business connections,” LaBelle said.

He added that entities like Main Street Skowhegan and the Skowhegan Regional Chamber of Commerce in the neighboring town help create a hybrid-like community where there are people working in town, “but it’s not a bedroom community,” because Norridgewock “often falls between the cracks.”

There is no set date for how long applications will be open; the town will continue to review applications until the correct candidate is chosen. Major responsibilities include maintaining relationships with existing businesses in the community to support operations and assist in any proposed expansion, preparing grant proposals, and maintaining the town’s website and social media accounts, among other duties.

More information on the job posting can be found on the town’s website.

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