SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The list of Maine municipalities that are certified by the state as “business friendly” now includes Southwest Harbor.
Thirty communities have earned the certification since the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) started the program two years ago.
The program recognizes cities and towns that “provide exceptional service and streamlined regulatory processes for business owners” and demonstrate “a true commitment to business development,” according to the DECD.
A panel of public and private economic development specialists reviews each municipality’s application to see if it qualifies for the business-friendly designation.
Southwest Harbor Town Manager Don Lagrange and other members of the town staff, along with Chamber of Commerce President Rain Holbrook, prepared the town’s application.
In announcing, Southwest Harbor’s business-friendly certification, the DECD cited the town’s “significant investment in infrastructure, creativity of community events that highlight businesses, Island Connections providing free transportation and services for the elderly and disabled, and updated comprehensive plan and ordinances.”
Lagrange said that over the past five years, the town has amended sections of its land use ordinance to be more business friendly.
“We’ve made it so that someone can now live on their property and not have to buy another lot to start a business; they can do both on the same property,” he said.
Pointing to that and a few other changes, he said, “It’s not that we’ve relaxed things to the point that would be detrimental to abutting property owners or anyone else. But we are allowing everyone the benefit of doing with their property what they need to do to make a living.”
Lagrange said the certification process also takes into account “businesses’ experience with the town in regards to getting their activities going.”
As for infrastructure improvements, the town’s application for the business friendly certification cited the current Main Street reconstruction project, which includes the replacement of water and sewer lines, and last year’s installation of a new water tank.
Bucksport and Ellsworth are the only other Hancock County municipalities that have been certified by the state as business friendly.