Where Tradition and Technology Meet
Maine is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the nation, with a rich maritime history set against striking coastline, forested interior and countless parks and waterways. The easternmost state in the U.S. has a well-earned reputation for its many amenities, from entertainment to some of the finest-quality seafood restaurants in the world. It has a longstanding tradition of shipbuilding going back hundreds of years and is still widely acclaimed for its many wooden sailing vessels used for fishing and transporting goods and passengers.
Maine’s shipbuilding continues, as seen in companies like Boothbay Harbor Shipyard that was originally known as Sample’s Shipyard. The company was formed over 135 years ago and has created vessels as varied as tall ships, fishing trawlers, tugboats, passenger board and vessels for the Coast Guard.
Today, the company works on new ships as well as the painstaking restoration of prized historical vessels, such as the Ernestina-Morrissey, a 156-foor Massachusetts schooner first launched in 1894. The $6 million contract represents the largest for the company and the largest-scale restoration in its history. The project bridges the state’s rich sailing tradition from the past to the present and serves as an example of its ongoing economic viability.
“We have a long tradition of sailing vessels,” says Bob Faunce, planner for the Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission.
Other companies, such as Hodgdon Yachts, also keep shipbuilding alive. Hodgdon was formed in 1816 and is still family-owned after two hundred years in business, making it America’s oldest boat-builder.
These and others stand as a testament to Maine’s marine heritage, combining timeless woodworking skills with state-of-the-art composite materials to make luxurious custom sail and yacht vessels up to sixty metres in length. “The range of skill sets and business sense we have in this region is pretty remarkable.”
Maine’s Lincoln County was founded in 1760 and has a growing population of 34,000. It attracted many boatbuilders, craftsmen, fishermen and artists in the 1800s, and continues to draw talent and business persons with vision.
Tourists, families and businesses come for the area’s sound economy, educated talent pool and unparalleled coastal scenery. The county is comprised of eighteen towns and one island – Monhegan, located approximately twelve nautical miles off the mainland.
While ship-making and fishing continue to be major industries – over 6,000,000 pounds of lobster are caught per year – the area is home to many other businesses from small farms and breweries to cheesemakers and artisans.
The Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission (LCRPC) was created in 2010 to increase employment and income and promote sustainable land use, transportation and housing development. Municipalities partnered with the county to establish the commission under Maine statutes (MRSA Title 13, Chapter 81 and Title 30-A, Chapter 119, Section 2321), thereby combining two long-standing county services: the Lincoln County Economic Development Office and county planning.
The LCRPC is well-suited to serve the needs of established and new businesses in the area. In addition to promoting the county, the commission provides a range of advisory services; deals with land use, economic, transportation and community development planning and provides assistance to businesses, towns and organizations. It also encourages business retention and expansion, promotes workforce training initiatives and education, offers assistance to businesses wishing to locate or relocate to Lincoln County and much more.
The commission has a full-time staff of two and one contractor. Faunce has been with the organization for eighteen years and has many years of experience, including running his own planning firm since 1985, which has seen him take on contracts with various towns in and around outside Lincoln County as a county planner.
Working alongside Faunce is LCRPC Executive Director Mary Ellen Barnes who has been part of the organization for eight years. Barnes worked in regional planning and economic development in the 1970s and 1980s in northern New Hampshire then spent time working in the field of local history and historical organizations before reentering the field of economic development by joining Lincoln County.
“The Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission really built off of work and organizations which existed for ten or fifteen years,” says Barnes, “and we decided to really bring the communities into the process more by creating a board of directors if you will, representing all the municipalities. That’s what we did in 2010.”
Lincoln County’s initiatives are wide-ranging, encompassing not only its venerated nautical and fishing history but green initiatives such as wind energy, community development, healthy living, downtown streetscape improvements, municipal and county planning for both coastal and inland areas, transportation, assessment programs for the development of brownfield sites, food and agriculture.
Lincoln County serves as the home of several unique research centers such as the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences named for Henry Bryant Bigelow, an oceanographer who spent many years exploring the Gulf of Maine and was also the founding director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
The laboratory, in East Boothbay, Maine, has existed since it was established by Doctors Charles and Clarice Yentsch as a private, non-profit research facility in 1974. It has won numerous peer-reviewed awards, garnered over $100 million in federal grants for research projects and opened a new Ocean Science and Education campus in East Boothbay in late 2012.
The area is also home to other world-renowned labs, including the Darling Marine Center (DMC) which was founded in 1965. It serves as the epicenter of the University of Maine for marine science and is home to the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence-Ocean Systems (COSEE-Ocean Systems (OS)).
“Both are world-class research institutions,” says Barnes, “and they have developed research opportunities in the last five years or so to actually take technology and research that they are developing from their work around the globe and turn it into small businesses. And so, both of them have a strong commitment not only to original research but spinning off this work applying to fishing, technology, seaweed and more. There will be a lot of spinoff possibilities, and we want to be able to capture some of that growth.”
Lincoln Country is fast gaining recognition as a home for advanced and environmentally friendly energy projects, such as wind power off Monhegan Island. The proposed New England Aqua Ventus 1 will be unique, 12-megawatt project that floats offshore, utilizing two, 6-megawatt wind turbines affixed to floating semisubmersible concrete hulls. The turbines are the VolturnUS which is designed by the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine and will be held in position in the ocean by three marine mooring lines that are anchored to the seabed and connected by subsea cable to the Maine power grid.
The goal, according to the project’s innovators, is to “demonstrate the innovative design of the VolturnUS with full-size offshore wind turbines, work with local contractors and manufacturers to generate local economic benefit, create and keep Maine jobs in Maine and provide renewable energy now and in the future.”
The New England Aqua Ventus 1 will yield many benefits for Lincoln County and the State of Maine, in terms of clean power from a renewable source and short and long-term employment opportunities. Ideally, it will lead to the development of large-scale, cost-effective offshore wind developments in the Gulf of Maine and worldwide.
“The University of Maine just received a $40 million grant from the federal government to pursue a new opportunity for offshore wind electrical generation,” states Barnes of the project, which will be located about two miles off Monhegan Island.
Over three hundred feet tall, the unique concrete wind turbines will, hopefully, produce enough power to light Maine when they reach full production. In addition to offshore servicing, the project will require landside support, which will be an economic driver and a very good employment generator in the future.
Recognizing the integral role tourism plays in Lincoln County, the LCRPC makes every effort to ensure its community downtowns are healthy and walkable and that infrastructure such as roads, highways and sewers are up-to-date.
Since it is located in a coastal area of 550 miles of tidal shoreline, it also performs considerable planning concerning its waterfronts, including climate change and sea level changes that can affect harbors.
“There are three or four downtowns that are right along the coast, and if these communities are going to survive as communities and as tourist attractions, we want to plan for their futures,” says Barnes. “We don’t really differentiate between tourism and economic development; it is part of this region’s history.”
Boothbay Harbor is prone to flooding so the county is working with the town to retain an engineering firm to help waterfront businesses including restaurants, marine servicing, tourism and other industries better understand flooding impacts.
Additionally, the LCRPC has worked for the past three years with the communities of Newcastle, Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor and Bristol on having a summer trolley, to transport tourists in a way which is inexpensive, fun and doesn’t require driving and parking.
Lincoln Country has much to offer businesses, tourists and families alike. It has an educated workforce, breathtaking scenery, existing tourist base, long-standing maritime industries and more.
The county continues to grow and prosper and is currently working on several projects and initiatives, including using funds from the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct assessments of some vacant, contaminated properties with the goal of putting them back into use as future homes for high-tech businesses. Located only half an hour from the state capital of Augusta, less than an hour from Portland, and about forty minutes from Rockland, Lincoln County is close to many businesses seeking new opportunities.