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Grafton County Economic Development Council Executive Mark Scarano selected as 2014 Small Business Champion of the Year

Release Date: 
Monday, May 19, 2014
Marilyn Bogue

Concord, NH:  The U.S. Small Business Administration recently announced that they will honor Mark Scarano, CEO of Grafton County Economic Development Council with the SBA 2014 New Hampshire Small Business Champion Award. Scarano will be recognized along with several outstanding entrepreneurs at the annual NH SBA Small Business Awards event on May 28.

Growing up in northern Maine, Scarano came to appreciate small-town New England values of bootstrapping, thrift, and how people created opportunities for themselves even in small, limited markets.  That attention to rural economic development had a strong impact on his future career choices.  Upon graduating from the University of Southern Maine (B.A.) and Iowa State University of Science & Technology (M.A.), Scarano returned to Maine to manage US Senator Olympia Snowe’s Bangor office.  During this time he came to understand the importance of an active federal partnership for economic and community development projects.

His enthusiasm for helping municipalities and economies grow took him to Millinocket, Maine in 1997 as their first Community Development Director, and, subsequently, to Piscataquis County, Maine where he managed the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council. He led successful efforts to attract two manufacturers to Piscataquis County creating over 300 jobs.  He organized an effort to have the State of Maine fund $1.2 million for a center for higher education and worked with others to develop innovative tourism development initiatives that helped diversify that county’s natural resource-based economy.

For the past seven years, Mark has managed Grafton County Economic Development Council, one of the 10 recognized Regional Development Corporations in New Hampshire.  A key partnership among these 10 RDCs was formed, the NH Alliance of Regional Development Corporations, and Scarano has served as President since 2012.

GCEDC has an active and engaged Board of Directors representing a variety of industry sectors and interests. Its corporate motto is "Economic Development through Partnerships,” and during Scarano’s tenure GCEDC made great strides.

The Enterprise Center at Plymouth, opened in 2013, was created in partnership with Plymouth State University to provide business incubator space, seminars, and one-on-one counseling for entrepreneurs.  Mark was a driving force behind funding efforts for this project. And the Dartmouth Regional Technology Center in Lebanon created in 2006 continues to provide similar services.  GCEDC partnered with both Plymouth State University and Dartmouth College to raise over $7 million to support these projects.  DRTC supported companies have created over 200 good paying jobs to date.

The GCEDC works to fill access to capital gaps and has several loan funds to finance a wide variety of business needs, including working capital, equipment and real estate. The loans are usually provided in coordination with private sector lenders and the GCEDC often takes a subordinated position on collateral.  Its organizational growth enabled GCEDC to add and maintain two additional loan officer positions.

Scarano has a special interest in helping North Country retain their young talent. The GCEDC  collaborated with North Country manufacturers and high schools to create and fund skills- based internships. The program, called the North Country Workplace Education Program, is a winning strategy that serves the diverse goals of its educational, corporate, and economic development partners. The high schools enhance their education curriculum by offering relevant, modern, and “real world” experiences to students. The corporate partners recognize the opportunity to attract future employees to replace their aging and retiring workforce.  And the GCEDC helps to staunch the outmigration of people, especially young people, from the North Country region.  In a three year period, over 25 businesses have offered internships to 160 students. Six of those students are now working at the companies in which they interned.

Benoit Lamontagne of the NH Department of Resources and Economic Development nominated Scarano for this award.  He says, “It’s difficult to distinguish between regular business duties and outside duties with Mark Scarano. He’s at countless meetings, day and night. He’s always available to assist businesses, partners and the community.”

“We look forward to honoring Mark Scarano as the 2014 Small Business Champion on May 28,” stated SBA district director Greta Johansson.  “He has been an enthusiastic builder of relationships with a ‘get things done’ attitude, and his efforts help many business owners achieve their dreams.”