By: Maura Adams
Peter Bourne stood at a lectern in Burlington recently, renewable energy leadership award in hand, and smiled. “I’m pretty sure this is the first time people at a climate change conference ever clapped for the owner of a fossil fuel company,” he said, and the crowd clapped even more, laughing in a moment of rare affinity with someone whose bread and butter is, after all, oil and propane sales.
But Bourne’s Energy – along with Sandri in Massachusetts, Ehrhart and Vincent’s in New York, and Daigle Oil in Maine, among others – is also helping create a cleaner energy future by expanding into bulk wood pellet delivery and boiler installation. Switching from fossil fuels to wood pellets for heat cuts carbon emissions by over 50%, according to a 2016 study commissioned by the Northern Forest Center (https://northernforest.org/programs/modern-wood-heat/wood-pellet-greenhouse-gas-emissions-study). Companies like these are making significant investments in this sector, because they recognize both the environmental benefits and economic opportunity associated with local, renewable heat.
by: Jessica O'Hare
The Maine Woods Tourism Training Initiative is a project of the Northern Forest Center and the Maine Woods Consortium, in partnership with seven economic development organizations. Its focus is strengthening tourism businesses across 12 million acres of forestland and forest communities in seven counties of the Maine Woods.
The recent conclusion of a USDA Rural Development grant that supported the project prompted us to reflect on the Initiative’s impact and what we’ve learned over the past three years:
- 49 trainings
- 717 Employees Trained
- 295 Tourism Businesses
- 454 Total Businesses
The project took it one step further than training alone. To help businesses act on the ideas the trainings offered, we provided small grants to help them take on strategic projects with the help of an outside consultant. See a map of all grantees. Together, we delivered:
- 38 small grants to businesses, totaling $44,280
- $66,480 in private investment leveraged
- Assistance to 51 business owners
- Strengthening jobs for 113 full time employees and 133 part-time or seasonal employees
Tourism businesses often chose to spruce up their internet presence. Black Mountain Ski Area of Maine in Rumford found great value in updating their website and training on social media marketing.
Other attractions, like McLaughlin Gardens and Homestead in South Paris wanted to make it easier to reserve their barn for weddings and events. Mt. Chase Lodge in the Katahdin Region hired a photographer to properly capture their accommodations, farm to table dining experience, and creative events.
We are taking stock of the project impact over seven counties in Maine. Here are a few of those lessons we took away from the project:
By: Julie Renaud Evans, Maura Adams and Jessica O'Hare
Exploring Lancaster, NH is like finding a hidden jewel. It’s a beautiful town nestled between the Northern White Mountains and the Connecticut River valley in northwest New Hampshire. The waters of the Israel River that run through town once powered manufacturing and mills; today it weaves quietly through the heart of the community. Fertile fields along these rivers support one of the largest family-run dairy farms in New Hampshire, and provide a pastoral setting to two covered bridges. Downtown Lancaster is home to successful businesses – a bakery, movie theater, fitness center and more on the way. The former Lancaster National Bank that dominates one end of Main Street is currently being renovated as a business center with a brew pub, an art gallery and maybe a business incubator.
Bethel, Maine is a recreation hub for western Maine. It’s home to Sunday River ski resort. The town holds the world record for building the largest snowoman and snowoman as part of winterfestivas. It is a destination wedding location. A world-class gem and mineral museum is very close to opening its doors. Bethel has a lot going for it.
Yet, we’ve heard from Bethel residents that they are concerned about demographic trends that face many other Northern Forest communities – an aging population, fewer school-aged children, and lagging wages.
Bethel is working to build on its existing recreation economy. They want to make Bethel a quality place for people to live, and for tourists to visit. Mahoosuc Pathways and many other partners want to build extensive recreational trails that are primarily for the community and second, but also provide diverse activities for tourists, as part of a community revitalization effort.
This week, the town began publicly exploring the acquisition of forestland to create a Community Forest. The proposed property is near the ski resort, and adjacent to important conserved lands. It would provide important access to other town property and could be a place for more trails. A newly established Planning Committee held its first public planning meeting. Dozens of people packed into the Gem Theatre to learn more, ask questions, and contribute to making important initial decisions.