April 06, 2020

Grant to spark job creation> USDA to fund training for Maine’s small-business owners

NEWPORT — A $99,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Agency will provide new jobs in rural Maine, according to Vaughn Rasar, project director for Heart of Maine Resource Conservation and Development in Newport.

Announcement of the grant award was made Monday by Congressman John Baldacci.

The Rural Business Enterprise Grant will be matched with a $20,000 grant from the Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City, Mo., to establish entrepreneurial and business training for small business owners in rural Maine, according to Rasar.

The funding will be used to establish Fast-Trac, a nationally proven business training program, in five to six locations across the state. Areas with high umemployment will be targeted, and qualified businesses and minorities will be “vigorously recruited” to participate. While the program benefits rural areas, urban businesses will not be excluded, Rasar said.

The program is very much in keeping with Gov. Angus King’s Plus One program, “if every small business added just one new employee … ,” Rasar said. He explained that Fast-Trac “is going to show how important Plus One’s impact can be. And it will be concrete evidence of how important rural business is to Maine.”

Heart of Maine, from its Newport office, will concentrate on programs in central and northern Maine. Southern Maine areas will be handled by the Portland-based Center for Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Heart of Maine’s partner in the project. Additional partners in the project will include the State Department of Economic and Community Development, corporations and other state departments, Rasar said.

The initial schedule submitted with the grant application called for two Fast-Trac sessions in the spring and three in the fall. With the delays since the application was completed, however, two sessions will be held this year, the first in the spring, Rasar said. In conjunction with the training program, Heart of Maine and its partners will establish community coalitions to provide support for the businesses benefiting from the program and to attract and develop new businesses.

Fast-Trac offers two levels of training, one for new entrepreneurs called “Defining and Launching Your Business,” and a second one for existing small businesses called “Growing Your Business.”

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