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Members' Activities 2010

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St. John Valley Creative Economy Project

In a 76-page final report entitled St. John Valley Creative Economy Project Strengthening Our Communities and Economy Through Culture and Place, researchers through the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine, in partnership with local community leaders, consider the St. John Valley of northern Maine, USA, poised for success in creative economic development. What is happening in a small, rural and underserved area of the Northern United States?

Over a two-year period, with primary funding from the United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Agency, Sheila Jans, Cultural Development Consultant / CultureWorth, along with colleagues Kathryn Hunt and Caroline Noblet, conducted an in-depth assessment of the St. John Valley's creative economy. The project incorporated locally driven and indigenously based planning processes for translating cultural assets into economic development and growth.

The researchers met with artisans, entrepreneurs, farmers, designers, visitors, business and community leaders, and students who shared their insight on the region's assets, challenges, needs and opportunities. Participants identified culture and place as the region'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.

Based on the research, the authors offer four major recommendations:

  • Build regional leadership, identity and collaborative capacity,
  • Strengthen programs and assistance to entrepreneurs and nonprofits,
  • Invest in the region's creative assets, and
  • Cultivate pride in culture and place.

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 report is available online at mcspolicycenter.umaine.edu.

Contact: Sheila Jans, 728-4820, sjans@cultureworth.org