NEWPORT, Maine — As the new director of the Sebasticook Valley Chamber of Commerce, Monica Bailey knew she had to do things a bit differently: Before she could hit the ground running at her new job, she had to hit the road driving.
“I’m not from around here,” Bailey said Wednesday. A Missouri native, Bailey used a Chamber brochure that featured the 12 Chamber towns and had her husband, Keith, slowly drive her through each one.
“I read the description like a tour guide and we got to know about each town,” she said.
But reading a brochure description is a long way from getting to know the subtle differences among each of the Chamber towns, Bailey admitted. “They each have their own personalities, their own issues, their own values and histories.”
If enthusiasm counts for anything, however, Bailey should be just fine.
She took the job in early February, replacing veteran Jane Briggs, and is already impressed with the business and community leaders she has met. “I cannot believe how nice and helpful everyone has been,” she said.
She said her primary goal is to serve the business members of the Chamber. “It is my hope that each member is proud to belong to the Chamber and that they feel they get a good return on their investment,” she said. “Since I’m not from here, I am not the expert on the Sebasticook Valley. But the members are.”
Bailey is encouraging members to drop into the Chamber’s log cabin on Route 2 or call or e-mail her with ideas and concerns.
A major goal, she said, will be to promote thinking, buying and playing locally.
“Whether the economy is good or bad, we need to support our neighbors,” she said. “We need to spend our money as close to where we live as possible.”
She also said she wants to get the area youth involved in Chamber promotions and activities. “Let’s build a place where these young people can go off to college and come back here to live and work. One of the things that tie young people to their community is involvement. It’s all about hometown pride.”
Bailey said that people living in a rural area often think they must go away to find services and products. “They often look right over what is here, right in their own communities.” She said the Chamber has 270 members but with 800 to 900 businesses within the 12-town Chamber area, there’s lots of room for growth and plenty of potential to promote Sebasticook Valley.
“I’m very impatient,” she admitted. “I have so many ideas but I need to get my bearings first and there are business things to be done.”
She is working on the summer guide book for the area and preparing for the Sebasticook Valley Trade Show to be held May 2 at Warsaw Middle School in Pittsfield.
“When the board hired me, knowing I was ‘from away,’ that spoke volumes to me. It meant that everyone is open to moving forward,” she said. “I will work incredibly hard for the chamber. All the members have to do is keep the ideas coming. It will all happen faster if we work together.”