Paris wants to get business friendly

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PARIS — The town wants to join other municipalities across the state and be “open for business” as part of the ongoing effort to help revitalize Paris.

Selectmen are expected to form a committee at their next meeting to earn Paris the designation as a Business Friendly Community, which is a program run through the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development. At Monday night’s meeting, Selectmen Chair Robert Wessels said the board asked Interim Town Manager Michael Madden to look into acquiring the certification.

“The application process has changed a little bit,” Town Clerk Liz Knox said after meeting with Mia Purcell of Community Concepts. “We did make changes to the Subdivision Ordinance to try to bring it more in compliance so that we would be able to meet the Business Friendly (designation).”

Purcell advised the town form a committee with members from the comprehensive plan and planning committees, along with anyone else who’s knowledgeable about the application requirements, to get that process moving along, Knox added. Applications — which Knox said are lengthy — are due Sept. 18 and Nov. 20.

“I don’t believe we are in line with everything on the application,” Wessels said. “We’ve done a portion of it … specifically the Planning Board. But I think there’s other areas, the way we operate and what we do, that need to be tweaked and fixed before we can even complete the application.”

Some of the requirements of the application include providing information on a citizen committee and/or professional staff dedicated to promoting and assisting in business development, pursuing economic policies, programs and projects; community/business effort to retain, expand and/or recruit new businesses; programs in the community that improve water, sewer, high-speed Internet, housing, etc.; partnerships with businesses, community and local schools/colleges that pool talent, labor resources and train people; life amenities that the community and/or region offer and information about the town’s mill rate for the past five years and projected rate for the next five years, with explanations about increases and decreases.

Selectman Vic Hodgkins said after reviewing the application, he’s advocating for a “measure twice, cut once approach.”

“Because of some of the elements that are involved in it … I think that maybe what we ought to do … is get started and honestly target this time next year,” he said about completing the application. “It’s going to take a goodly amount of time and I think some of the elements of the application will reflect better of the town of Paris a year from now than it does today.”

Wessels agreed.

“To me, I see some wisdom in setting up this committee that will look at this thing … and we can set a goal of setting a having the application in by next year’s deadline,” he said.

“At the end of the day, the goal line is to have Paris, perhaps, be recognized as the first town in the county of Oxford to have a Business Friendly designation from the state,” Hodgkins added.

Wessles asked to put the committee formation on the next agenda and for his colleagues to think about details of the committee.

“I want to do the committee right. Let’s think through the numbers, let’s think through what walks of life would be interested,” he said.

The committee will be addressed again at the next selectmen’s meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14.

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