Raising the city's profile: Herbig shows off Belfast to state official

By Kendra Caruso | Feb 11, 2020
Photo by: Kendra Caruso Sen. Erin Herbig, D-Waldo, right, and Economic and Community Commissioner Heather Johnson, center, talk with Todd French, left, at French & Webb Feb. 5 during their economic tour of the Belfast area.

Belfast — State Economic and Community Development Commissioner Heather Johnson visited several stops around Belfast last week at the invitation of Sen. Erin Herbig, D-Waldo. Herbig wished to show off the city’s economic progress and put it on the map for lawmakers to consider further area needs.

The state officials had lunch Feb. 5 with City Council members and city employees. They visited City Councilor Brenda Bonneville’s shop, Ambiance, and then toured French & Webb while discussing the restoration of the Sequoia and touring the former presidential yacht. They also toured Ducktrap River of Maine, Three Tides and Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. later in the afternoon.

They finished the day off at the Hutchinson Center for Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours with a discussion of Maine’s strategic economic development plan.

The strategic economic development plan guides the state toward its economic goals. In December 2019, Gov. Janet Mills released a new 10-year plan that emphasized increasing pay, talented workers and product value per worker by 10%, according to the Governor's Office website.

Herbig discussed bringing high-speed internet to the area to accommodate the increase in economic development she said the city is experiencing.

She said she wants to support the city’s continued development by keeping young people in the area, and talked about expanding access to trade and technical training for jobs available in Waldo County.

Calling herself a “boomerang” — someone who left the area and then came back — she said she might have stayed in Maine if she had known what was available to her as a young person. Herbig wants to increase opportunities for young people to make an adequate living in the state so they do not feel a need to leave.

She also wants to put Waldo County in the forefront of lawmakers’ minds when considering funding and other support that could have a positive effect on the area.

Her goal in bringing the commissioner to the city was to show officials in Augusta how the Belfast area has managed to grow its economy in a very rural part of the state. She said it could be a model for economic growth in other Maine communities.

“I think they see the really innovative things happening in Waldo,” Herbig said. “ ... There’s a lot to be proud of and I think it’s good to show that.”

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