What is Sustain Southern Maine?

Sustain Southern Maine is a regional Partnership of communities, organizations, and businesses working together to strengthen our economy, environment and sense of community. It serves Cumberland and York Counties with the overall goal of increasing prosperity across the region.

To do this the Partnership endeavors to address critical issues facing the region through a multi-pronged approach. Joining the Partnership has many benefits and is easy to do.

Addressing critical issues – why the Partnership is important.

Southern Maine offers its citizens safe, closely knit communities in which to live, work, and play; as well as the ability to easily access both natural places and urban, cultural experiences within minutes of each other. This is unique to the region and sets it apart from many other places. It is the foundation for its many accolades as a quality place to live. However, it is faced with critical issues that must be addressed if the region is to retain what makes it special and succeed in building a more prosperous future. Critical issues such as:

  • A lack of quality educational and employment options necessary for our young people to prosper,
  • A lack of diverse housing options (both rental and ownership) necessary to meet the needs of our current population and the young people we wish to attract,
  • High heating and transportation costs that contribute to a high, and unstable cost of living and doing business,
  • A lack of sufficient, modern transportation, sewer, water, and telecommunications infrastructure necessary to support a thriving economy,
  • A lack of the options and services needed (health services, transportation, etc.) to serve our aging population, and
  • An erosion of the resources and character that make the region unique and are essential in attracting jobs and young people.

Addressing the issues – how the Partnership works.

To address the issues the Partnership set 10 long-term goals, and developed a suite of priority strategies and actions to achieve these. (Specific priorities can be found under What We’re Doing.)

Long-Term Goals

  1. Increase social and economic opportunities for persons with disabilities, low-income persons, minorities, refugees and immigrants.
  2. Increase mixed use re/development of underutilized parcels with access to public infrastructure within village and neighborhood centers.
  3. Increase available affordable housing with access to transit.
  4. Increase transit options for residents and visitors.
  5. Decrease transportation related emissions.
  6. Decrease household and business energy costs related to heating and transportation.
  7. Create new jobs at or above the average wage within the region.
  8. Increase capital for small businesses within the region.
  9. Increase in both private and publicly accessible lands in conservation for recreation, farming and forestry, and hazard mitigation purposes.
  10. Create healthier communities by providing for and promoting walking and biking.

The work to implement the priorities is carried out through a five-pronged, interdependent approach:

  1. Growing the Partnership;
  2. Building on the Centers of Opportunity;
  3. Leveraging and focusing efforts;
  4. Aligning funding; and
  5. Building capacity in our Partners through knowledge sharing.

Why join the Partnership?

Joining the Partnership comes with many benefits; chief among them is the Partnership itself. Becoming a Partner offers the chance to network with organizations beyond those you might traditionally be connected to, and breaks down silos. Breaking down sectorial silos has led to identification of shared goals and new advocates for Partners. Networking and new relationships has offered different and innovative ways to solve problems and address issues; as well as identified opportunities to leverage resources and accomplish more.

Additionally, Partners are more competitive for funding as the full weight of the Partnership and consistency with a regional vision can be used to support funding requests. When applicable, Partners are able request documentation to certify Consistency with Sustainable Communities Planning and Implementation (applies to some federal funding programs).

How to join the Partnership.

Membership is free and open to any municipality, educational institution, foundation, non-profit organization, or private sector organization located within or serving Cumberland and York Counties. To join the Partnership an organization shall submit in writing a request for Partnership status. A request includes a commitment to the Partnership’s principles and goals, a description of activities the organization is prepared to provide the Partnership, and identification of a designated representative to the Partnership. The Partnership’s principles are provided below, and the long-term goals are provided above. Activities a Partner might provide the Partnership include participating on the board, participating on a subcommittee, engaging new Partners, providing in-kind expertise, or funding.

  • Supporting and revitalizing existing communities
  • Enhancing economic competitiveness
  • Promoting equitable, affordable housing
  • Providing more transportation choices
  • Enhancing and investing in healthy, safe and walkable neighborhoods,
  • Coordinating policies and leveraging investments

Partnership background.

In 2010, the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) was awarded a $1.6 million Sustainable Communities Regional Planning grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in concert with the US Department of Transportation and the US Environmental Protection Agency. This grant funded the planning phase and came to a close in the spring of 2014. The Sustain Southern Maine Partnership initially encompassed 42 municipalities in York and Cumberland Counties before being expanded to fully cover both counties. Planning work was been conducted in collaboration with the Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission, the Muskie School of Public Service/University of Southern Maine, Cumberland County, as well as the Partnership of over 40 communities, organizations, and businesses. The aim of the planning phase was to develop a suite of regionally applicable strategies and actions related to transportation, housing, infrastructure, economic development, natural resources, and social equity that when implemented will result in a more prosperous region.

  • View the PowerPoint providing an overview of the planning phase