EDITORIALS

It Only Takes One

Posted Aug. 23, 2011, at 5:43 p.m.

Sometimes, a down-on-its-luck town, county or state can have a cup that runneth over through the efforts of just one, enthusiastic person. And sometimes, the most effective tactic said person can use is to convince people that the glass is half full, not half empty.

And we’re not just talking about a warm-and-fuzzy, power-of-positive-thinking dynamic. Attitude really does drive process.

Effective leaders identify and catalogue the assets that those around them do not see or value. Effective leaders identify achievable and practical goals that fit into a clear vision for success. Effective leaders build consensus on the action plan to achieve the goal.

And one critical component of the process is the effective leader’s ability to build confidence in the team with whom he or she works. That leader’s enthusiasm for the task at hand becomes contagious, and people working together can do mighty things.

A recent BDN story about Kathy Howell, the new director of the Machias Area Chamber of Commerce, suggests she is one such effective leader. Washington County and its shiretown need such leadership.

The region has the assets to grow. Its charming small towns, its coast — ocean, bays, estuaries, rivers — and its proximity to outdoors-based recreational opportunities like hunting and snowmobiling suggest tourism potential. The region also can serve as a fertile small-business incubator, especially as broadband is expanded. Again, the small-town quality of life is attractive to young entrepreneurs.

In outlining her goals for the Chamber, Ms. Howell has articulated a strategy the county might replicate in a larger way to grow economically. She told BDN reporter Sharon Kiley Mack she wanted the Chamber “to become visible, to have credibility and to be encompassing.”

Washington County itself must become visible to the rest of the state and New England. To do so, it must develop a consistent and compelling “story” or message.

Its credibility, the second of Ms. Howell’s goals for her organization, could be translated for the county as a whole to mean it finishes what it starts. Credibility also might be understood as demanding that residents get free of drug addiction. It also should mean that business proposals are evaluated professionally; as important as new ventures are to the region, decisions made about such proposals must not be driven by desperation.

Her third goal is “to be encompassing.” The countywide version of that goal is for all established county booster groups to work together as often as possible, and to delegate tasks in a larger strategy to the most appropriate group; in other words, no turf wars allowed.

If Ms. Howell is successful, Machias may flourish as a lively, fun college town in which new small businesses can survive. And what works in Machias might be replicated in Lubec, Eastport and Calais.

No one wants to put undue pressure on one person, but Ms. Howell’s positive attitude also should be replicated.

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