Business brisk at state’s new ‘Business Friendly’ website

Remember the story last week about Gov. Paul LePage’s new “Certified Business Friendly Community” program?

Apparently, that program is getting some traction.

According to a release today from the Department of Economic & Community Development, there have been more than 550 hits to the “Business Friendly” website, 142 applications have been downloaded and nearly two dozen Maine communities have contacted the DECD to learn more.

“We are very encouraged by the amount of interest the program has generated in just a week’s time,” said DECD Commissioner George Gervais in the release. “These communities are following the governor’s lead and understand the importance of being business friendly, reducing red tape and promoting job creation. Working together at the state and local level will make Maine prosperous.”

The proposal is an outgrowth of a series of sessions LePage held around the state last fall with business leaders. Businesses told administration officials that state agencies were becoming more business friendly, but challenges still existed in many local communities.

At first, LePage floated the idea of reducing revenue sharing with towns that didn’t align with state efforts. But officials said Tuesday that there’s no plan to go down that road.

In the Certified Business Friendly Community program, communities, chambers of commerce, trade organizations and others can apply to be registered. Any application has to have a community’s imprimatur.

A review team of seven people will look at the applications quarterly, with the first review scheduled for May. They will look at criteria such as customer service, collaboration between communities and the business community, licensing, permitting and other areas. Reference letters from local businesses will be part of the process. And the community will have to post public notices notifying people that it is applying for the certification and noting that the state is looking for public comment.

Communities in the program can use the “Business Friendly” designation in its marketing efforts, will be recognized on the state DECD website, will get a “Open for Business” road sign and will be a “key part of Maine’s business attraction strategy,” according to a release on the program. Certification is for two years.