Committee Punts on RFP for Convention Center Study


Chair of the Economic Development Committee Justin Costa, Confers with city manager Jon Jennings, Before the Committee Meeting This Evening.

Steve Hewins, President & CEO of Hospitality Maine, Augusta, Listens at This Evening’s Committee Meeting.

The Economic Development Committee, chaired by conservative Justin Costa, punted this evening when it was asked to give city staff the go ahead on issuing an RFP for a feasibility study for a much-needed Convention Center in Portland.   Rather, it put off giving city staff permission to issue a RFP  because the cost of the study is unknown. The cost of the study will be revisited early next year.  It was conservative City Councilor Nick Mavadones who first brought up the issue of study cost – with the rest following his lead.

Doesn’t the Committee trust the tight fisted Jennings to make an educated decision on the cost for  which he could go ahead and issue an RFP in order to expedite this long over due facility?

For years, the hospitality industry has supported and lobbied the city council to begin a process that could lead to the eventual establishment of a Convention Center.   That has been free advice. In recent years, Steve Hewins, has been a persistent advocate in encouraging the city to proceed in this direction.  Although he did not testify, he was present at the Economic Development Committee meeting this evening.  Other Finance Committee members are Nick Mavadones, and Spencer Thibodeau.  (They can be replaced this November 6th!)

But the city, finally, is ready to jump in and “lead the way” according to city manager Jon Jennings this evening.  “A study would not be a location study…..we are turning away a lot of business because of the lack of a convention center,”  Jennings told the Economic Development Committee tonight.  For example, the Arctic Council, that met at the Westin Hotel, was “all over the place,” he said  (Please visit post herein dated October 6, 2016 for more background information on the Arctic Council meeting in Portland).

Hewins addressed the Chamber of Commerce recently and members expressed support for the project.  A Convention Center would be funded through a public-private partnership, but Jennings would not name them in public tonight.

“There’s plenty of support from the business community as well.  It’s not just restaurants and hotels, the obvious benefactors of a Convention Center that support the idea.   It’s about revealing Portland to businesses and potential residents here,” said Steve Hewins following the meeting.   “I want to get this on a fast track, because there aren’t many places left in Portland to accommodate a Convention Center.”

Note:  Two members of this Committee are being challenged by new-comers.  Nick Mavadones and Spencer Thibodeau are up for re-election.  Joey Brunelle and Jon Torsch are challenging them; Vote For Them!