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FAME Board Visits Androscoggin County Businesses and Schools
The Board of Directors of the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) visited an eleventh-generation dairy farm, the state’s largest food bank, local restaurants, area businesses, and a higher education institution recently in Androscoggin County to learn about their successes, needs and future plans. The Board held its monthly meeting at Lewiston-Auburn College in Lewiston, as well, where it enjoyed a presentation by its dean and two students.
On October 19, members of the FAME Board and staff toured Brigeen Farms in Turner, a FAME customer and dairy farm in existence since 1777 and owned and operated by Bill and Betsy Bullard. There FAME learned more about the dairy’s operations and its successful use of technology for growth. FAME insured a loan to the farm made by Farm Credit East. “We are impressed by Brigeen’s ability to adapt to changing dairy market conditions and succeed with high-tech devices that monitor its herd’s health and dairy output,” said Bruce Wagner, FAME Chief Executive Officer. Brigeen Farms employs eleven full-time people.
Additionally, the Board toured Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine in Auburn to learn more about its collaborative partnerships with local Maine farms to address food insecurity with healthy, locally sourced food. FAME was pleased to present a $3 million check to the nonprofit, which was the result of an RFP process approved by the Maine Legislature last session. The grant will allow the food bank to purchase vegetables, fruits, and seafood from Maine producers to be distributed to hunger relief programs across the state. “This funding will allow us to expand our work with Maine farmers, putting money back into local communities, and help us distribute healthier options to families that are having trouble putting food on the table. It’s a win-win for everyone,” stated Kristen Miale, president of Good Shepherd Food Bank. The food bank employs 65 Mainers.
FAME also toured Elmet Technologies of Lewiston. Elmet is a FAME customer and a leading global manufacturer of high-performance refractory metal products. Among other products, the company provides the high-temperature furnace industry with high-quality molybdenum and tungsten components and assemblies for hot zones, heating elements, shielding, and fasteners. “We were impressed by the quality STEM workforce of Elmet, as well as its world-class facility and the management’s dedication to keeping high-quality manufacturing in Maine,” stated Ray Nowak, FAME Board Chair. Elmet Technologies employs approximately 155 individuals.
The FAME Board and staff also visited The Dingley Press in nearby Lisbon, which is owned by FAME board member Chris Pierce. The Dingley Press, founded in 1928, is the fifth-largest catalog printing company in the United States, and prints and mails over 320 million mail order catalogs annually for 160 nationwide catalog companies. Dingley, which currently has 360 full-time employees, is a former FAME customer, having obtained critical financing in the late 1980s that enabled it to survive and ultimately flourish.
The group enjoyed a reception and dinner with area business and higher education leaders at DaVinci’s Italian Eatery in Lewiston. Betsy Biemann, Chief Executive Officer of Coastal Enterprises, Inc., presented her research on growing Maine’s food industry. CEI is a national leader in rural business development. It is a private, non-profit community development corporation founded to create social and economic opportunities for the people, businesses and communities of Maine.
The FAME Board held its monthly meeting at Lewiston-Auburn College in Lewiston on October 20, where it enjoyed a presentation by Dean Joyce Gibson and two students studying in the nursing and occupational therapy fields. L-A College, which is part of the University of Southern Maine, offers a variety of interdisciplinary majors, student-centered learning, a community atmosphere, and a deep commitment to meeting regional needs. Lewiston State Representative Peggy Rotundo joined the gathering, as well.
FAME Board Chair Ray Nowak stated: “FAME really benefits from these opportunities to get out in the community and visit with local businesses, schools and students to learn firsthand about their work and needs. We enjoy witnessing up close their success stories and learning about the needs and future plans of our business and higher education partners.”