WCCC Business Management Program Graduate Leads Maine Street Business Building Project in Machias

August 5, 2022
Denise Cilley

Denise Cilley, Director of Small Business & Entrepreneurship at Sunrise County Economic Council and WCCC Graduate


Machias, ME – A new downtown Machias building will offer startups a space to grow

At a recent Mainebiz “On the Road” event in Machias, Town Manager Bill Kitchen may have been the town’s most vocal advocate, indicating that the Washington County locale was “on fire.”

In the past two years, Machias has seen new residents move in, a slew of new visitors exploring the Downeast region and, perhaps most tellingly, new investment.

Charles Rudelitch, who is executive director of the Sunrise County Economic Council, provided a telling example. 

Now under construction, not far from Machias Savings Bank’s new headquarters, the Sunrise County Economic Council is building the Maine Street Business Building, a $1.4 million project that will host entrepreneurs and offer dedicated space for startups. 

Denise Cilley, leader of the project, says in the past two years SCEC’s Small Business & Entrepreneurship Team has reached and connected over 425 individuals, 175 businesses and collaborated with more than 50 partner organizations across Maine.

Like a lot of programs devoted to startups, it was outgrowing its space on Machias’s Main Street, which is also U.S. Route 1. The space was also run down. That building was razed.

The new space for entrepreneurs and startups, now under construction.

In its place, now under construction, is a two-story building that will house entrepreneurs and host programming. The siding going on this week.

Cilley said the space will serve as a startup incubator and accelerator program.
“We currently offer virtual startup incubator and accelerator programming, in-person training series, funding and grant opportunities, business counseling, and technical assistance through SCEC’s Small Business & Entrepreneurship division and are building a virtual community experience as well,” Cilley said.

“The MaineStreet Business Building will be the physical arm of our program, where we will bring business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs together, providing the below-referenced spaces and amenities as well as training, collaboration, mentorship, and networking opportunities in a professional, welcoming environment,” she said.
In addition, the program will also “continue to be mobile and present in communities across the region.”

Construction of MaineStreet Business Building began in the spring and is on schedule. It will open in early 2023. 

The site will offer members access to open co-working and designated desk workspaces, furnished private office and meeting spaces, a large conference room, “relaxation zones” and views of the Machias River. There will also be shared professional office equipment and kitchen amenities, as well as on-site technical assistance and networking and professional development events.

Overall, it will be 3,360 square feet, with nine private offices and four designated desks. In addition to the construction cost of $1.356 million, the cost of outfitting the space will be around $100,000. Donors of $25,000 or more included Machias Savings, Bangor Savings Bank, the Sunrise County Economic Council, Northern Border Regional Commission, Libra Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Coffin family.

The hope is to give startups a place to grow and thrive, within the downtown of Machias. 

“We aim to connect entrepreneurs, innovators, and small business owners with the resources and learning opportunities they need, when they need them,” Cilley said.

Denise Cilley is a graduate of the Business Management Program at Washington County Community College (WCCC) and states that “the skills she obtained while at WCCC are skills she uses every single day in her career”.

She was one of the first WCCC students to complete degrees through our 2+2+2 articulation agreements.  She earned her associate degree at WCCC before transferring to the University of Maine at Machias for her bachelor degree and eventually St. Joseph’s College for her Master of Business Administration. Denise also currently gives back to WCCC by serving on the Business Studies Program Advisory Board.

Denise joined Sunrise County Economic Council (SCEC) in April of 2019. She designs and delivers entrepreneurship and small business programs and virtual community in collaboration with colleagues and network partners. Denise is helping lead the construction and space design processes as well as operational aspects and services to be provided at MaineStreet Business Building‘s physical space coming to 19 Main Street, Machias.

In May of 2015, Denise graduated from Saint Joseph’s College having earned her MBA. She earned her preceding business management degrees through Washington County Community College and UMaine Machias, respectively.  Prior to joining SCEC, Denise worked in the banking/finance industry for 13 years in the commercial credit risk and branch leadership and lending arenas. Since 2013, Denise has enjoyed an active adjunct business faculty role at WCCC. She lives in Jonesport with her husband, son, and furry kids. Favorite pastimes include musical expression, spending time with family and friends, as well as volunteering for causes around the premise of creating opportunities for the children of Washington County.

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