Unique program to bring business to Caribou

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CARIBOU, Maine — A grant secured by the Northern Maine Development Commission will fund training sessions geared toward helping potential entrepreneurs plan and carry out business ventures.

The money awarded to NMDC will allow the economic development group to offer an 11-session training program for selected entrepreneurs. After the sessions, private investors in Caribou may select the most promising plan or plans and provide backing for the ventures.

The NMDC was granted $50,000 from the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program and a matching $50,000 from the Northern Maine Finance Corporation.

The news was announced Friday by Duane Walton, director of business finance at NMDC.

Walton said that NMDC officials will pick submissions that “show the greatest interest in being an entrepreneur, with entrepreneurial spirit, and wanting to come to Caribou.

“At the end they [the participants selected] will have a business model for a business type they have researched and then present that to the investors,” he said.

The plan was supported by Caribou City Manager Steven Buck, who lauded it as a “new and unique approach” toward business investment for people who want to set up shop in Caribou.

“There are numerous business opportunities within our region,” he said. “There are opportunities in information technology using our existing and recently enhanced infrastructure, light industrial and commercial enterprises to utilize our existing capacities, and any number of niche markets that are yet to be tapped. The best business opportunities are those that the entrepreneur has invested the time [in] to fully develop the business model for success.”

Walton said that he felt that a manufacturing business would be a workable idea, as would retail.

“The key to the whole thing is to find out what’s needed in Caribou and that’s part of the process,” Walton said.

He added that he was hopeful that the program would entice people who had left the region to come home and open a business.

Applications and a brochure, which outlines the program, are available on the Northern Maine Development Commission website www.nmdc.org. The application deadline is July 31. Selection of the eligible participants will be completed by Aug. 15 and the entrepreneur/business plan training sessions will begin the week after Labor Day. The plan is to complete all phases of the program by Dec. 1.