U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Success Stories

New Capacity for Sunrise County: USDA Helps Meet Business Needs

Leigh Hallett
Economic Development
Four women and one man sit at tables in a large room with a USDA banner in the background.

When team at the Sunrise County Economic Council (SCEC) polled area businesses, they heard a consistent message. Asked what they needed to thrive, business owners made it clear. They were looking for more training opportunities and resources right in the community. Washington County, Maine (often called “Sunrise County,” as the eastern most county in the continental U.S.) has seen some difficult economic changes over the last decade or two. The SCEC (https://sunrisecounty.org/) wanted to give small businesses in the area a tangible boost to help overcome the challenges.  

Two buildings are shown in the setting sun near a street and sidewalk. Both buildings are two stories tall in a traditional New England design. The one on the left has a sign that says, "MaineStreet Business Building."
The MaineStreet Business Building (left) opened in 2023 and was furnished using USDA RBDG funds.

At the most practical level, the businesses expressed an immediate need for space. The SCEC team envisioned a centrally located facility to offer office space for startups, conference rooms, and shared equipment. This vision was the genesis of the MaineStreet Business Building (MSBB https://mainestreetbusiness.org/). The newly constructed shared office space opened in 2023. Businesses can utilize cowork spaces, rent private offices, use shared conference rooms, and access highspeed broadband. SCEC secured a $100K USDA Rural Business Development Grant to furnish the building with equipment and basic services.

But simply providing the space for businesses to work wasn’t enough. “When we started planning around the MSBB and reached out to businesses to ask what they needed, we kept on hearing about the need for more training, more technical assistance around IT and cloud-based services, and how to incorporate that new technology for businesses around Washington County,” said Charles J. Rudelitch, SCED Executive Director in November. The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Team at SCEC got the message loud and clear: technical assistance was needed. However, as a rural nonprofit with many programs, the team lacked the capacity on staff to provide the training local businesses sought. How could they fill the need? SCEC again turned to USDA Rural Development.

In 2023 SCEC secured a second Rural Business Development Grant, this one for $75K. With the addition of $53K from the nonprofit’s budget, the team launched an initiative to use the new MaineStreet Business Building to offer technical assistance to entrepreneurs and business owners in diverse fields such as art, graphic design, finance, agriculture, and fisheries. Said Director Rudelitch, “This USDA grant allowed us to create a position and to hire someone who has the skills understands the technology, who understands how businesses work and provide in-person training and advising to help our businesses thrive.”

Three women in business attire stand inside an office space.
USDA Rural Development Maine State Director stands with Katie Bragg and Amanda Smith of SCEC inside the MaineStreet Business Building in Machias.

On November 15, 2023, USDA Rural Development State Director Rhiannon Hampson traveled to Machias to tour the new facility, meet with the SCEC staff, and talk with area business owners. That day a bright sun shone down on the pristine and welcoming new building on Main Street in Machias. The warm and welcoming MSBB cowork space was fully outfitted with furniture, equipment, and technology. What’s more, the SCEC team had just welcomed aboard Geoffrey Lagat as its new Client Technology Advisor.

As staff and well-wishers came together that day to celebrate the new shared space in Machias and the USDA grant, SCEC ED Charles Rudelitch introduced Geoffrey Lagat, noting that the Council funded the new position and hired Geoffrey with the USDA grant. He noted, “We appreciate USDA Rural Development’s willingness to invest in a new strategy to our county’s need for information technology training and technical assistance. Thanks to USDA RD, there’s vital new capacity in our community.”

Obligation Amount:
Year(s) of Obligation:
Congressional District:
  • Maine: District 1