ST. JOHN VALLY -Â In a 76-page final report entitled â€śSt. John Valley Creative Economy Project â€“ Strengthening Our Communities and Economy Through Culture and Placeâ€ť, researchers through the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine consider the St. John Valley of northern Maine poised for success in creative economic development.
â€śAll the ingredients for a prosperous and vibrant region are here,â€ť says Sheila Jans, one of the reportâ€™s authors. â€śThe Valleyâ€™s cultural and place-based assets are largely indigenous, renewable and sustainable. To build upon them and encourage a viable creative economy, weâ€™ll need to maintain committed dialogue, creative planning, focused leadership and an active pursuit of the recommendations in our report. Key to success is a creative mindset.â€ť
Over a two-year period, with primary funding from the United States Department of Agricultureâ€™s Rural Development Agency, Jans, along with colleagues, Kathryn Hunt and Caroline Noblet, conducted an in-depth assessment of the St. John Valleyâ€™s creative economy through the University of Maine in partnership with the University of Maine at Fort Kent and local community leaders. The project incorporated locally driven and indigenously based planning processes for translating cultural assets into economic development and growth. The report is available online at http://mcspolicycenter.umaine.edu.
Luis Sanclemente, Vice-President of a financial institution and a member of the projectâ€™s regional advisory group said, â€śThe report shows that the potential of the region is great, and with the right efforts from various sources, it can explode into a dual benefit of rejuvenating the unique local culture and the economy all at once.â€ť
Based on the research, the authors offer four major recommendations: 1. Build regional leadership, identity and collaborative capacity, 2. Strengthen programs and assistance to entrepreneurs and nonprofits, 3. Invest in the regionâ€™s creative assets, and 4. Cultivate pride in culture and place. Jans adds, â€śOur starting position with this project was clear: culture and place not only improve our quality of life, but constitute a foundation for building new business opportunities and a prosperous future for the communities of the St. John Valley.â€ť
The researchers met with artisans, entrepreneurs, farmers, designers, visitors, business and community leaders, and students who shared their insight on the regionâ€™s assets, challenges, needs and opportunities. Participants identified culture and place as the regionâ€™s primary assets. They painted a compelling picture that included a more developed infrastructure for four-seasons tourism, venues for artists to display and sell their work, investment in cultural organizations and festivals, and niche farming.
When participants were asked what was needed, at the top of the list was regional leadership and cooperation among towns. They identified the need for regional investment strategies to enable entrepreneurship and micro-enterprise business growth, direct technical assistance for creative entrepreneurs, mentoring, and cooperation in the marketing, sale and distribution of goods. Many want a region with diverse products and services, education in innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, and small business incubation. They also desire creative and sustained application of the French language in school, community venues and the built environment.
The final report provides a summary of project activities, the output of the research, recommendations and conclusions. It offers concrete examples of actions taken elsewhere and an outline of potential next steps for translating the results of this report into action. An extensive appendix includes additional information, including detailed reports of certain project components.
The St. John Valley, locally known as the â€śValley,â€ť is a rural, bilingual, and international region at the northernmost tip of Maine, bordering the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and QuĂ©bec. Dowload the report at http://mcspolicycenter.umaine.edu.
Contact Name: Sheila Jans
Telephone Number: (207)728-4820