Our area of midcoast Maine has seen significant economic development in the past two decades. Our downtowns offer retail/commercial sections that are home to antique shops, a museum, a large marine supply firm, restaurants, grocery and department stores, gifts and clothing, convenience stores and gas stations, and more. We also have numerous services in town such as banks, insurance agents, realtors, lawyers and medical and dental offices.
Our coastal towns have a high level of traffic with a peak influx of visitors throughout the summer and fall. Belfast and Searsport have a rich tradition grounded in the maritime industry and commitment to the preservation of our historic downtowns. Belfast is the principal service center community for the labor market and for Waldo County. Most of the region’s jobs are located in Belfast. Searsport’s location along Rte. 1 offers retail businesses a high level of visibility. Our coastal location on Penobscot Bay offers fine sailing, boating and fishing opportunities.
Belfast is well positioned to attract new-economy businesses given the livability of the community; existing technology infrastructure established during an expansion by credit card company MBNA, now Bank of America; and the high quality of educational offerings, including higher education at the University of Maine’s Hutchinson Center. Tourism is a significant economic force in our coastal towns. Recognized as one of the 100 Best Small Art Towns in America by author John Villani, Belfast’s reputation as an arts community provides a solid foundation from which an expanded arts and culture tourism base can be built. Belfast has a Business Park located adjacent to the Municipal Airport with vacant lots and existing facilities available for sale. On the harbor, parcels exist for commercial development.
In Searsport, Sears Island, over 900 pristine uninhabited acres, is connected to the mainland by a causeway a short distance off of Rte 1. The agreement on the future of Sears Island allocates 300 acres for development. The larger parcel of over 600 acres are to be maintained as a conservation area which will become a prominent destination for eco-recreation by offering traditional hiking, bicycling, kayaking, picnicking, bird watching, etc, as well as an enhanced entry to the island, a visitor/education center, ADA approved trails, and safe access to the beaches.
Searsport also has heavy industry such as a major port facility with bulk handling and storage and a chemical plant. Both industrial sites are located a short distance from Rte. 1 and both locations are serviced by the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway. Truck, rail and ship give businesses local access to global markets. The State Department of Transportation has long-term plans to build a container port which will enhance access to global markets. A future container port on Sears Island will offer more opportunities for both import and export. Additionally, Bangor International Airport is only about 30 miles from Searsport
Pine Tree Development Zone (PTDZ)
A state wide program that offers eligible businesses in eligible sectors the chance to greatly reduce or virtually eliminate state taxes for up to ten years. The goal is to:
- Create quality jobs in targeted industries
- Support new or expanding Maine businesses, and businesses relocating or establishing a Maine presence.
- Corporate Income Tax Credit (100%, Years 1-5; 50%, Years 6-10)
- Insurance Premiums Tax Credit (100%, Years 1-5; 50%, Years 6-10)
- Income Tax Reimbursement (80%, Years 1-10)
- Sales and Use Tax (100% Personal Property Exemption, Years 1-10)
- Sales and Use Tax (100% Real Property Reimbursement, Years 1-10)
- Access to reduced electricity rates
- Aquaculture and marine technology
- Composite materials technology
- Environmental technology
- Advanced technologies for forestry and agriculture
- Information technology
- Manufacturing, including precision manufacturing technology
- Financial services
Employment Tax Increment Financing (ETIF)
If your for-profit, non-retail, non-utility business is adding a minimum of 5 net new
Maine jobs within a two-year period, it may be eligible for Maine's Employment Tax Increment Financing. Under the ETIF program, businesses are reimbursed up to 80% of their new employees' Maine income tax withholdings for up to 10 years. To qualify, new employees must receive an annual income greater than the county's average per-capita income (see Appendix 4 for income guidelines), and be provided access to group health insurance and an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)- qualified retirement program.
Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement/Exemption (BETR/BETE)
The Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program (BETR) was designed to encourage new capital investment in Maine. The program reimburses 100% of local property taxes paid on most qualified business property for up to 12 years
Tax Increment Financing (TIF)
Tax Increment Financing provides municipalities with a local tool to finance the cost of private development. Maine municipalities may redirect some or all of the new property taxes from an investment project within a designated district to assist in that project';s financing. This program is municipality specific. Belfast and Searsport participate in the TIF program and has a TIF policy. Both communities handle TIF on a case-by-case basis.
Tax Increment Financing is:
- A financial tool designed to tax the increases in property value resulting from property improvements.
- A public financing tool used to assist economic development projects by capturing the projected property tax revenue stream to be created by the development and investing those funds in improvements associated with the project.
- A financing method which uses the additional taxes generated by a completed development to pay for development costs such as land acquisition and site improvements. The difference between the taxes before the development occurs and after its completion is referred to as to the “increment”.
- The exact terms of the TIF are negotiated between the firm and the town.
Maine Products Marketing
Maine Products Marketing Program builds recognition for Maine-made products, their producers and Maine businesses in general. Producers of quality consumer products that are substantially made in Maine can participate:
- Complimentary profile on the Maine Made Web Site for qualifying companies including web and e-mail hotlinks.
- Point-of-purchase “Maine Made-America’s Best” product identification hang tags, labels, acrylic table-top displays, banners and “open” flags are available at a modest cost.
- Kiosk display
Maine Technology Institute (MTI)
Under the Maine Department of Economic Development’s(DECD) Office of Innovation, the Maine Technology Institute supports Maine companies’ early-stage research and development efforts leading to commercialization of new products and services. MTI makes investments up to $500,000 that are awarded on a competitive basis several times a year. All MTI awards require a 1:1 cash match. All awards are made to private businesses and non-profit organizations that will increase the level and pace of research and development in the state’s technology sectors and create new jobs for Maine people.
Applied Technology Development Centers
Also under DECD’s Office of Innovation, the Applied Technology Development Centers are technology incubators for start-up companies commercializing products and services in Maine’s seven targeted technology sectors. The ATDCs provide cost-effective facilities and services, including training and access to business, technical and financial resources. ATDCs exist for the information technology, composite materials, precision manufacturing, biotechnology, forestry and agriculture, environmental and aquaculture industries.
Maine International Trade Center (MITC)
Promotes the expansion of Maine's economy through increased international trade in goods, services and related activities. Small- to medium-sized Maine businesses benefit from MITC’s expertise in technical assistance, trade counseling, import and export leads, international credit reports, workshops, coordinated trade missions and trade shows and many other useful services to help
Permits, Licenses & Approvals
Opening a business here may require permits, licenses and other approvals from the local municipality. The following City departments are the first point of contact for issuing approvals:
City Planner and Alternate CEO
(207) 338-3160 Ext. 35
Code Enforcement Officer and Licensed Plumbing Inspector
(207) 338-3160 Ext. 33
Code Enforcement Officer
(207) 548 – 6372
(207) 548 – 6372