New CEO to lead Chamber, boost Bangor region vitality

Posted Oct. 13, 2009, at 5:58 p.m.
This artwork by Nancy Ohanian relates to the financial tightrope walked by U.S. businesses during the current economic crisis.
Nancy Ohanian
This artwork by Nancy Ohanian relates to the financial tightrope walked by U.S. businesses during the current economic crisis.

Recently, the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce formally launched the search process for a new president-chief executive officer to lead our organization. This important action is a key element of a major initiative, launched in January and announced at our annual awards dinner, to firmly establish the Bangor Region Chamber as one of Maine’s most influential advocates for business and economic development.

The Chamber is focusing its energies and resources on promoting activities and public policies aimed at two interrelated objectives: supporting the needs, interests and vitality of our region’s existing businesses; and strengthening our region’s attractiveness to entrepreneurs and new business and employment opportunities. Given that, it should be important to every business, family, organization and taxpayer north of Kennebec County that the Chamber is successful.

As the commercial and financial hub of Maine’s northern half, the Bangor region plays a central role in advancing the economic interests and quality of life of hundreds of thousands of Mainers. This region’s Chamber — the largest and most diverse business advocacy organization this side of Lewiston-Auburn — possesses significant economic and political potential, something we hope to capitalize on by partnering with other individuals and organizations — both within and outside Greater Bangor — whose own interests coincide with ours.

For example, recently the leaders of several area organizations involved in aspects of economic development signed an agreement to work collectively and cooperatively to develop and advance shared economic growth strategies. (The impetus for this effort came from two members of our Chamber’s board of directors.) In addition to the Bangor Region Chamber, this network of partners includes Access Atlantica, Action Committee of 50, Bangor Region Development Alliance, Bangor Target Area Development Corp., Eastern Maine Development Corp. and Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau. (Our first collaborative effort involves leadership roles in the recently announced “Mobilize Eastern Maine” initiative, a grass-roots business and economic development initiative led by Michael Aube and Jennifer Brooks of Eastern Maine Development Corp.)

Each organization brings certain strengths and responsibilities to the table. The partnership’s expectations of the Chamber include, but are not limited to, the roles of “convener” and “facilitator.” Using our organization’s resources and reputation as a high-profile business advocacy organization, the Chamber has primary responsibility among the partners to bring stakeholders, potential stakeholders and-or policymakers to the table. In addition, we will play a leadership role in articulating the case for Greater Bangor’s economic interests — and, by extension, the interests of the northern half of the state — to policymakers, taxpayers and the general public.

Other members of this partnership will exercise their own strengths in an effort to advance our common goals. Some will take the lead in business support and recruitment. Others will work on mutually beneficial regional marketing strategies. Still others will take the lead in pursuing private and public investment in the region. All of the partners will be equally involved in developing strategies for building and sustaining a healthy business climate and economy.

Given all of this, the new Chamber president-CEO will assume a role and working relationships greater and more demanding than any of his or her predecessors. Consequently, the Chamber board appointed a search committee whose membership reaches well beyond the board itself. It includes some of the region’s most engaged and respected business and community leaders, and represents diverse professional backgrounds and industry perspectives. We also contracted with an experienced executive search consultant who has worked successfully and productively with a number of Bangor-area businesses and not-for-profit organizations.

Before advertising the position’s availability, the board thoughtfully and methodically rewrote the job description. We wanted to make it clear that we seek to attract candidates from within and outside of the region who understood the types of experience, talents and competencies we expect — including the ability to contribute constructively and creatively with the region’s new economic development partnership. But more important, we wanted to ensure that our new president-CEO has a clear picture of his or her role as part of the larger effort to advance the Bangor region’s interests.

We are confident that we will find the right candidate, and that he or she will play a leading role in business advocacy and economic development on behalf of our members, our partners and our communities.

John N. Diamond, executive director of external affairs for the University of Maine System, chairs the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerces board of directors. P. Jerry Whalen, vice president of business development for Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, is a Chamber board member and chair of its presidential search committee.

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