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Nonprofits Profit Maine; Just Ask Biddeford

PHOTO: A revitalized downtown and Mill District of Biddeford is one of the success stories in a new report that says Maine's nonprofit organizations contribute an estimated $10 billion to the state's economy. Photo credit: Tomasso/Wikimedia Commons
PHOTO: A revitalized downtown and Mill District of Biddeford is one of the success stories in a new report that says Maine's nonprofit organizations contribute an estimated $10 billion to the state's economy. Photo credit: Tomasso/Wikimedia Commons
February 16, 2015

BIDDEFORD, Maine - Maine's nonprofits profit Maine. That's the takeaway from a biennial report on the status of the nonprofit sector in the Pine Tree State.

According to the Maine Association of Nonprofits, the state's nonprofit organizations contribute an estimated $10 billion to the state's economy while employing 1 out of 7 Maine workers.

In one of several cases focused on in the report, the group Heart of Biddeford has organized its community to attract 57 new businesses in their downtown district.

Executive Director Delilah Poupore acknowledges this is the sort of development you'd expect to see a mayor or a city council or a local Chamber of Commerce engineer.

"If we didn't have the city council none of our initiatives would move forward," says Poupore. "But it so happens that it really works to have a volunteer-driven and community-inspired project."

The report, titled "Adding Up the Impact," says nonprofits mobilize 350,000 volunteers each year and pay $3.6 billion annually in wages, which translates to approximately $206 million in personal income tax revenue for the state.

Poupore says the kind of jobs generated through the initiatives of Heart of Biddeford are more than just tourism-based.

"They're entrepreneurs coming in and opening businesses, retail, service and restaurant businesses in the Main Street," Poupore says. "Then within the Mill District, we have 100 jobs that have opened in the last six years or so, many of them doing light industrial work."

Despite their contributions to the state's economy, non-profits are facing a movement in Augusta to relieve them of some of their tax exemptions. Lori Gramlich, director of Public Policy and Strategic Communications of the Maine Association of Nonprofits, says that would be a mistake.

"This report really illustrates in a very profound way the economic impact we do have on the state," Gramlich says. "Nonprofits losing their tax-exempt status will really, really compromise and marginalize the really good work the sector does for the state economy."

Poupore says in addition to the business-related benefits, nonprofits address the environment, cultural institutions and social services.

"A lot of times when people think of profits, they are specifically thinking of dollar bills, but the nonprofits really take care of Maine's quality of life," she says.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME