Today, members of the federal government, Congress, and entrepreneurs met at the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development (MCED) to announce two new local i6 grant awardees. The i6 grants are to be awarded to MCED and Coastal Enterprises (CEI), and focus on job creation and supporting entrepreneurship.
“This 2015 Regional Innovation Strategy cohort of grantees is truly an exciting group – the diversity in programs and regional representation proves that innovation and entrepreneurship are igniting all corners of the country,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams in a statement. “These programs will reach a broad range of communities across the nation to help entrepreneurs build capacity and gain the edge they need to succeed.”
For its Top Gun Rural Accelerator Network, MCED was awarded a 3-year grant of $390,000. They will use the new funds to expand the program. According to the official release, the Top Gun program has grown over the past six years to accelerate commercialization in the rural Maine economy. As part of the expansion efforts, the program will add new on-ramps and off-ramps, including two Lewiston-Auburn, and connections with USM, Biddeford, and immigrant entrepreneurs. New off-ramps include a new Equity Pathways program and research on the a potential program focused on growth strategies.
“On behalf of MCED and our partners, we’d like to thank the EDA for their recognition and support of the programs and the movement we are creating here in Maine,” said MCED Executive Director Don Gooding. “We’ve built an interconnected platform of programs and people that enables us to connect high aspiration entrepreneurs, wherever they are, to the resources they need to succeed, wherever those are. The EDA funding will leverage the four years of success with our two partners in the Blackstone Accelerates Growth initiative, and enable us to expand the Top Gun Rural Accelerator Network with a dozen or more partners in the Maine Accelerates Growth initiative.”
In CEI’s effort to assess the feasibility of and demonstrate the market demand for a Natural Resource Business Seed Capital Fund, they were awarded a two-year grant of $250,000. CEI already currently focuses on supporting natural resource-based industries in Maine’s rural communities, and would advance their efforts with a new proposed fund.
“We are honored to accept this grant from the EDA, which will support critical R&D to help Maine’s natural resource sector capitalize on its tremendous growth potential,” said CEI SVP of Program Management & Development Keith Bisson. “CEI sees great opportunity to target early-stage business ventures with high potential for job creation. Natural resource businesses in Maine constitute a large cluster poised for innovation. CEI’s current portfolio includes high-growth, job-creating firms that provide products and services locally and nationally. These companies range from gelato manufacturers to aquaculture businesses developing new technologies. For these new and expanding businesses, the critical financing gap is often in the early stages of launch and scale-up.”
Launched in 2010 as part of the White House Startup America Initiative, the i6 Challenge is now in it’s fourth cohort. Competitors consist of businesses and entrepreneurs from around the nation, and the supportive challenge offers targeted, high-impact investments that support their creation and innovation.