The Knox/Waldo Regional Economic Development Council has hired Justin Holmes of Hallowell to be the nonprofit’s new executive director.

Holmes is employed by Augusta-based Eaton Peabody Consulting Group LLC, which will contract with KWRED for $98,095 this year, of which Holmes will be paid $55,000 for his work, with a fringe benefit of $16,500. Estimated office expenses are $13,800. The remaining $12,795 is considered indirect costs paid to Eaton Peabody.

“There is a difference in the air in the Midcoast,” said Holmes on Jan 3. “There is a sincere intent by municipal offices and business folks to develop an exciting economic development strategy. The way the public and private sectors work together hasn’t happened elsewhere in the state.”

Holmes will work in Belfast, Camden and Rockland, and will be overseen by Mathew Eddy, another Eaton Peabody Consulting Group employee who is currently Camden’s interim economic development director.

Holmes is a 2006 graduate of the University of Maine’s public administration program. He grew up in Hallowell, and is married with three children. His background includes municipal finance.

According to the letter of engagement dated Dec. 7, Eaton Peabody will bill KWRED monthly for $8,175, with invoices sent to the Knox County finance director in Rockland.

Holmes replaces Alan Hinsey, who is stepping away from the position to focus on coordinating the Many Flags, One Campus project, which was approved by the state’s board of education last October. That project entails combining Oceanside High School, Midcoast School of Technology Region 8, a community college and the Marine Systems Training Center onto one campus somewhere in the Rockland-Thomaston region. Efforts to move that project forward include working with the Legislature to set aside funding for construction.

Holmes’ position is full time, and he is to ensure that funding is adequate. If funding is not adequate, then Holmes’ hours will be renegotiated.

“It is understood that it is a priority of the executive director to work to secure such funding,” the letter said.

His tasks may include:

Provide timely and effective assistance to existing businesses;

Recruit new businesses for the region;

Develop shared regional goals that are clear and achievable;

Leverage resources throughout the region;

Focus on expansion of the year-round employment base for the region;

Promote effective and innovative workforce development efforts;

Develop and maintain a regional asset inventory and database;

Draft annual KWRED work plan for board approval;

Prepare annual operating budgets, revenue forecasts and present “actual to budget” financial reports to KWRED;

Fully participate in KWRED fundraising and revenue attraction activities;

Prepare, submit and administer grants and contracts that will be used to directly fund KWRED activities;

Supervise staff, consultants and subcontractors as appropriate;

Attend meetings of economic development work groups in the region;

Meet regularly with the municipal managers throughout the region;

Work with federal, state and local officials to establish the most effective Economic Development District for the Midcoast;

Convene industry sector meetings throughout the KWRED region, one per quarter, for manufacturing, health care, marine trades, biotech, information technology, financial services;

Convene area elected municipal and county officials to discuss/plan joint economic development efforts;

Develop and maintain an inventory and database of regional economic development assets, strengths and resources, properties, labor force profiles, educational resources, housing data, demographic data and infrastructure resources, and maintain an inventory of challenges, weaknesses and deficits that must be overcome;

Work with state and local officials to improve infrastructure; e.g., industrial parks, airports, roads, rail, telecommunication/Internet, broadband access, access to capital, workforce and education institutions;

Provide promotional information, press releases and public relations outreach material on a regular basis highlighting KWRED activities, goals, successes and plans;

Ensure that KWRED meetings and forums are regularly rotated throughout the region to provide maximum opportunity for attendance by businesses, public officials, the press and interested parties;

Maintain the KWRED website;

Serve as the region’s primary point of contact for business attraction;

Work closely with Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, the governor’s office, Maine and Company, regional economic development districts, state and local chambers of commerce, and local economic development committees on business attraction opportunities;

Serve as adviser to businesses, coordinating economic development and financial services for both start-ups and existing businesses;

Work with existing businesses to acquire the economic development resources;

Serve as the primary convener/connector for businesses, lenders, commercial real estate brokers, venture capitalist, research and design experts, and public agencies, linking business ideas with the capital and intellectual resources needed to make them a reality for the region; and,

Work with the Maine Department of Labor, workforce investment boards, career centers, community colleges, universities, technical schools and industry groups to ensure that appropriate workforce training and education is available in the region.

The Knox/Waldo Regional Economic Development Council was formed in 2006 to advance regional economic development strategies for Knox and Waldo counties. Originally, it was an arm of Eastern Maine Development Corporation in Bangor, but in 2010, it split from that organization and is now in the process of becoming its own nonprofit. Its mission is to stimulate long-term economic growth through job creation and retention, advocacy and regional collaboration.

The council’s board consists of municipal and business officials, Maine senators and representatives, county commissioners, town managers and nonprofit directors. Its current chairman is Rosemary Kulow, Rockland’s city manager.

It is funded partially by Knox County, which committed $45,000 last year, and by private business. In 2010, Machias Savings and Camden National banks both presented checks to KWRED. (See box for the organization’s proposed budget.)

Holmes was recently hired by Eaton Peabody Consulting Group LLC, which is based in Augusta.

Eaton Peabody Consulting Group LLC is an affiliate of the Portland-based Eaton Peabody law firm. The consulting group helps developers with the complexities of review and permitting process, financial planning, market assessments, or identifying resources to assist in a project’s development, according to the company’s website.

“EPCG can also provide direct business assistance to emerging companies, connecting them to resources when they need it the most,” the company said. “At the same time, EPCG has the capacity to guide communities through the process of planning and implementing of a variety of community and economic development efforts, or including detailed financial planning services. Across the public and private sector, EPCG provides extensive marketing and branding services that include the capacity to provide video production efforts and to conduct necessary market analysis.”

The company said its consultants are strengthened with the law firm, “which provides a full range of sophisticated legal services. Where appropriate, EPCG taps this broad based legal capacity to assist in its economic and community development efforts.”

A press release issued by KWRED on Jan. 3 said Holmes has worked for the past four years as an economic development specialist for the Mid Coast Economic Development District, the federally designated district covering the town of Brunswick and Sagadahoc and Lincoln counties.

“I’m excited about this opportunity,” Holmes said in the press release. “These are challenging times. Our focus will be on business retention strategies and services for all employers throughout the Knox/Waldo region.”

Mark Biscone, corporate executive officer of Waldo County General Hospital and treasurer of KWRED, said: “There are a number of key industry sectors in our region that Justin and the KWRED board will be working closely with. We believe that by focusing on industry clusters we have a better chance of assisting them with access to the capital, skilled workers and the markets they will need to not only survive these tough times, but also be positioned to grow.”

Holmes said job one will be to establish close working relationships with businesses, industry leaders, workforce experts and public officials throughout the entire KWRED region.

“We need to let everyone know that KWRED is now a full-time resource that is ready to help every business and every community in our region grow and succeed,” he said.

The next KWRED meeting is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 14 at 9 a.m. at FMC Biopolymer in Rockland.