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Success Stories

Nurturing Dreams and Livelihoods: Local Partner in Northern Maine Makes USDA Financing Easy to Access

Leigh Hallett
Rural Development
Small Business
A woman and man stand in front of a pontoon boat with a banner that says the company name, "Wilde Recreation."

After a long career in software development, Marci Wilde was ready for a change of vocation. Being a recreation enthusiast herself, she knew how much folks love to enjoy the trails, woods, and lakes year-round, especially up north. So, she packed up and moved to rural Cross Lake Township, Maine. The township is nestled in the “Crown of Maine,” near the northernmost part of Aroostook County and proximal to the Canadian border. Readily accessible by the Interconnected Trail System (ITS), snowmobile and ATV users can explore every nook in the area by trail or head out on the ITS to see the sites far and wide.

A map of the state of Maine points to the northern border and is labeled "Cross Lake Township."

Marci envisioned a business providing these opportunities to locals and visitors alike who may not have access to the vehicles needed to explore. In 2021 she founded Wilde Recreation LLC and became a Certified Polaris Adventures Outfitter offering snowmobile and ATV rentals, lodging, and other amenities. “Where the wilderness meets adventure in northern Maine!” is the company’s byline.

In its first few years, Wilde Recreation thrived, and by 2024 Marci was ready to expand her offerings to include pontoon boats. With four lakes nearby, she wanted her guests to be able to get out on the water during the warmer months to enjoy Maine’s pristine summer landscape. Bringing in pontoon boats, trailers, and all the necessary safety equipment was a big commitment though, and Marci wasn’t sure where to turn for financing options. Another local businessperson recommended she speak with the Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) as NMDC had helped him in the past.

Based in the City of Caribou, NMDC is a Community Development Financial Institution. The organization has a team of advisors and loan officers who work directly with local businesses to provide financing and counseling. Thanks to USDA Rural Development funding, NMDC also has low-interest, long-term loans to offer rural small businesses like Wilde Recreation.

Marci soon connected with Josh Nadeau (pictured with Marci above), a commercial loan officer with NMDC. I reached out to Josh, and he made it so easy,” she says. “He listened to what I needed, and we figured out what I had for collateral and which loan program might work.”

A woman and man stand in front of a line of ATVs in a parking lot under gray skies.

She learned she was eligible for a USDA Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP) loan. After that, it only took about ten days for her to apply for the loan and receive approval. “From the beginning, NMDC has been a lender that felt like a partner rather than going to a big bank and feeling like a number. Thanks to NMDC, applying for the USDA RMAP loan was very fast and couldn’t have been easier. Josh facilitated everything,” says Marci. Though RMAP is a federal program, Marci was able to access the funding quickly and easily through USDA’s local partner, the Northern Maine Development Commission.    

By early May Wilde Recreation’s new pontoon boats had arrived, ready for the summer season. NMDC’s Josh Nadeau and his colleague Brandon McDonald (pictured with Marci at left) were among the first to check out the new boats. For Marci, one of the most exciting aspects of her recent expansion of services is that she has been able to hire more staff. “Obtaining the USDA RMAP loan through NMDC helped me not just expand the business but also retain and add employees. It’s exciting to be helping to boost tourism in our rural area,” she said. Marci looks forward to continuing to grow the business and adding more staff in the future. USDA Rural Development and NMDC will be waiting in the wings, ready to help fund her next phase of growth.

Northern Maine Development Commission

Marci was able to secure a USDA RMAP loan thanks to the work of the Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC). Nonprofits, federally-recognized tribes, and institutes of higher education with a demonstrated record of delivering services to rural microentrepreneurs (or an effective plan to develop a program to do so) are eligible to apply for Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program funds. USDA designates successful applicants as Microenterprise Development Organizations. They may then use the USDA funding to make ten-year loans of up to $50K to businesses located in eligible areas with ten or fewer full-time employees.

NMDC has partnered with USDA for thirty years to make federal financing available in Aroostook, northern Penobscot, Piscataquis, and Washington counties. This means that the Commission does the heavy lifting of applying for and administering the federal funds. Local businesses seeking capital then work directly with the NMDC team rather than having to navigate federal applications themselves. Marci’s experience with her NMDC loan officer Josh Nadeau is a case in point: “He asked the questions, and I provided the answers. He facilitated the whole thing. It couldn’t have been easier!” she said.

Depending on local needs, NMDC participates in other Rural Development opportunities such as the Intermediary Relending Program Loan (IRP). FY24 USDA funding announcements included both RMAP and IRP loans for NMDC to support northern Maine businesses. (Read the May 9, 2024 announcement online.) They also utilize other federal and state funding sources.

In February 2024, NMDC was recognized as “Maine 2023 Leading SBA MicroLender” by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The award recognized the organization’s outstanding work in providing microloans and technical assistance to small businesses in northern and eastern Maine.

Executive Director Bob Clark says, “We foster economic growth and resilience in communities often overlooked by traditional financing channels. These financial resources do more than just support businesses, they nurture the dreams and livelihoods of rural communities, empowering them to thrive and sustain themselves.” This was certainly the case for Wilde Recreation LLC. USDA Rural Development salutes the creativity of Marci Wilde and the hard work of the NMDC team that brought these vital federal dollars to far northern Maine where they can help develop local tourism and help a new business thrive!


An ATV is shown on a dirt trail in northern Maine with trees in the background and a blue sky overhead.



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  • Maine: District 2