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The Excluded Micro Economy in the Boothbay Region and Beyond

Two recent news stories in the Boothbay Register provide an oveview of what is going on in economic development in Boothbay. On October 4, 2018, in the article titled, JEDC future hinges on filling vacant co-chair seat, Joseph Charpentier reported that the JECD, after spending 79000 to hire New York consultants to create an economic development master plan for the entire peninsula, is in decline. The JECD doesn't know how to implement the plan produced for the JECD by the New York consultants, Camoin Associates. The JECD has expended its welcome to use taxpayer pockets to fund its agenda. and the Boothbay co-chair is currently an unfilled position of the public-private development group.

The second story, CEO’s action makes for smooth sailing for new Boothbay business, by Bill Pearson, is about the rescue by Code Enforcement Officer Jason Lorrain of a small manufacturer from a major setback at the hands of the Boothbay selectmen.

Recently a local artist purchased a property thinking he could establish a gallery but the town selectmen prohibited it. In 2013 town officials shut down Stimpson boat builders. Stimpson's right to build boats was eventually restored but at a great cost to the boat builder. Although town selectmen claim to want young people, families, and full-time year-round jobs to the peninsula, they do not welcome or encourage micro-economy jobs and small manufacturers. The Boothbay ordinances are very restrictive of that sector of the economy. The only certain place the selectmen allow for such activities to establish themselves is in Industrial Park, also in TIF District #3, but the location has no attractions, except for the ever-expanding storage units businesses.

These two stories are related by the fact that small manufacturing is a craft. Boat builders and probably even sail makers are designer-craftsmen.

To fill in the backstory, when I applied for fiscal sponsorship to a New York non-profit fiscal sponsorship organization, for our ceramic design and slip-casting business, qualified as a social enterprise, my application took twice as long, as anticipated, all the while being told, not to worry. we would be approved. We were rejected because I used the word "production" on our application. The New York board declared that the word "production" means one is only in it for the money.

The board did not reject us outright but encouraged us to apply for a different mission, such as a school or a museum. The reason we were initially told we would qualify for fiscal sponsorship is that Andersen Design has been teaching ceramic skills on the job since we were established in 1952, but the non-profit fiscal sponsorship organization had such strict rules for what we would be allowed to teach that it meant we would not be allowed to teach what we know and have a passion about- except for our glazes. We would be allowed to teach the general public how to make our proprietary glazes which are inseparable from our brand signature.

I chose to apply for the Museum. I noticed, after the fact that it was better to show no profit in one's numbers. Non-profit organizations do not approve of wealth creation. I had not taken this fact in when I made my application for our production company. Using my Dad's parameters of operations, which is a system of ratios, I projected that we would almost make back the entire amount of funding we were targeting based on setting up a new state of the art production and hiring six to eight employees. Since materials are a percentage of the total budget, knowing the current price of materials, which has risen along with everything else, allowed me to project the numbers for everything else, using the ratos. I put a great deal of time and effort into those figures but when I applied for the museum, having no idea of the expenses involved, I just made it up in about half an hour and showed that the Museum would lose money, since upon re-reading the instructions, I understood that this is what the board wants to see. The board may have used my choice of words ("production") as their cited reason for rejecting us but the fact that I showed that we could make a profit if funded surely did not help. No wonder they concluded Andersen Design is "only in it for the money". It's that small word "only" which is absolutely one hundred percent wrong, as I had written in the application that if we were only in it for the money, Andersen Design would have moved its "production" overseas long ago like most of the western ceramics industry. The fact that we did not, puts us in a rare and special position to revitalize ceramic slip-casting in the USA in the present day.

Midcentury ceramic designer, Weston Neil Andersen designed a series of enticing mugs that are at once unique, playful, elegant, joyous and classic. Andersen mugs have always been handmade in America. Each mug is slip-cast and meticulously hand finished. 

So that is how it came to be that Andersen Design is fiscally sponsored to create the Andersen Design Museum, which I later changed to the Andersen Design Museum of American Designer Craftsmen. It's a very good concept but, as is often the case with boards, it involved a total and complete change of our mission. My first passion is to bring Andersen Design - an American production as an art form, into the twentieth century so that future generations will have greater options of being able to spend their lives involved in a process which I love and am grateful to have in my life. For me, it has always been about the work process itself. That is an idea central to the concept of an Andersen Design Museum of American Designer Craftsmen, but that project shall remain on the back burner for now because I have to devote my own energies first and foremost to my first passion.

But, back to the thread of this post, Once we were fiscally sponsored for a museum, we had to learn about a new industry,. We knew nothing about the way the non-profit world functions and so I approached Wendy Wolf with the idea, observing that she and the co-sponsor of the JECD both had a non-profit background and asked for advice on how to go about fundraising. Wendy Wolf chose to interpret my request as asking the JECD to fundraise for us. She did what most of the economic development organizations do. She sent me an internet link for someone else to contact. I had included a sales pitch for the museum explaining how it would be a benefit to the local economy but Ms. Wolf did not find my pitch interesting enough to engage in any way. Her response was that the JECD cannot do anything to help individual businesses, profit or non-profit, and advised me to get help from my own peer group.

Later, I realized through my own research that the form of fiscal sponsorship we have for the Museum is inadequate, while it would have been fine for our Great American Ceramic Designer-Craftsmen Network vision- because we know everything about our own business. Through independent research, I learned that there are comprehensive fiscal sponsors which would make the museum idea much more viable if combined with a small support team on our end. I have been up and down the economic development resources offered in Maine but I had to learn this on my own. If Wendy Wolf or Abby Levin know this difference, they were not about to tell me. I contacted a site for philanthropy lawyers in Beverly Hills, to find out more information about comprehensive fiscal sponsorship and how it works. Before I knew it I was talking on the phone with the CEO and his team. I entered the conversation as one in which I was seeking information about later realized I should have been selling myself. I had discovered my peer group and left the door slightly ajar in the case at a later date we are ready for that. For now, I  have too much on my plate, running our production practically by myself, and all the rest of the functions of keeping this unique American business alive. Given what is happening in the Boothbay Region, I do not think it is a good location for a designer-craftsmen community, and that is the type of community in which I envision the Andersen Design Museum of American Designer Craftsmen being located, should it ever manifest. Before Boothbay could be a viable location for such a museum, it would have to totally transform its town ordinances so that it welcomes and encourages small manufacturers, which is what designer craftsmen are. I also think the Museum should be in a community that values history, such as Waldoboro, which can greatly benefit from a business like ours which generates destination shopping, and of course, the Museum itself is also a destination.

The Camoin Report highly emphasizes the value of museums. That is what the JECD has to figure out how to implement, according to their master plan, created for them, by New York consultants.


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