Recently, Tony Hernandez, USDA Rural Development's Housing and Community Facilities Administrator visited Maine to see firsthand how Rural Development can support the growing seafood processing industry in Downeast Maine. Tony also met with leaders from the Penobscot Indian Nation to discuss USDA Rural Development’s ongoing support of housing and community development on the Tribal lands.
We had a very valuable trip, starting with a visit to Prospect Harbor to see the Maine Fair Trade Lobster Company. Formerly the Stinson Seafood Cannery, the largest sardine cannery in the nation, the building and equipment were purchased by what became Maine Fair Trade Lobster Company. The purchase preserved much-needed jobs in the area, and the facility now employs approximately 170 workers and processes over 50,000 pounds of lobster every day. We're working with community leaders in Prospect Harbor to ensure USDA Rural Development supports community capacity building and infrastructure development as businesses like Maine Fair Trade Lobster Company expand and increase employment.
While in Prospect Harbor, Tony and I had the pleasure of visiting one of the employees of the Maine Fair Trade Lobster Company, Maria (who goes by 'China') Santos. China lives in the Hand in Hand Apartments, a six-unit housing complex financed by USDA Rural Development.
Wrapping up the day, we paid a visit to the Penobscot Nation to meet Chief Kirk Francis and his leadership team. Gathering at their community center on Indian Island, we talked about current projects like the USDA-financed Wenona's Place I and II housing complexes that currently provide safe and comfortable homes for sixteen Tribal families. We discussed ways USDA Rural Development could provide further support for the Tribe.
Looking back on the day, it's clear that USDA Rural Development is in a key position to continue its support of community development in rural communities across Maine, and for that matter – the nation. I know Tony feels the same way, too, and we were glad to have him come for a visit.