BANGOR, Maine — About 40 Penobscot County business and civic leaders gathered to hear about a new vision for development in the Bangor region and the consensus seemed to be that it takes more than a village.
If Bangor and surrounding communities are to extend a recent wave of development, they’ll need more extensive collaboration, cooperation and communication over the coming months and years.
“The point is our municipalities seem to resist collaboration, but it’s necessary for growth,” said panelist Andrew Hamilton, a lawyer specializing in economic development at Bangor law firm Eaton Peabody.
Hamilton’s presentation included slides of Revolutionary War slogans and handouts such as “Join or Die” below a snake which was cut up — each piece representing one of the original colonies — “E Pluribus Unum” and “Out of Many, One.” The visuals’ meaning was unmistakable: United is better than divided in economics and development as well as politics.
Wednesday morning’s two-hour program at the Hilton Garden Inn, organized by the Maine Real Estate & Development Association, was one of nine events scheduled this year to promote an environment for responsible development and ownership of Maine real estate.
Panelists included Hamilton as moderator, Bangor City Manager Cathy Conlow; land use planning consultant and Orono Town Planner Evan Richert; Cary Weston, Bangor city councilor and president of Sutherland Weston Marketing Communications; and Michael Aube, president and CEO of Eastern Maine Development Corp.
Projects such as the development of Bangor’s and Hampden’s waterfronts, the new arena and events center in Bangor, and improvements to Old Town’s airport were referenced as panelists discussed ways to keep the development trend going.
All panelists stressed the increased importance of public and private partnerships involving development and limited government funding as well as creativity when it comes to completing successful projects that create revenue and jobs.
“The new regionalism is now networks,” said Aube. “Many challenges demand a regional approach.”
The panelists said groups such as Mobilize Eastern Maine are helpful in shepherding collaborative, asset-based planning models for towns, noting communities no longer can afford to be strictly competitive and look at economic development as a “zero sum game.”
“I don’t think there’s any question that we need a more regional approach and concentrate on marketing the region rather than the individual city or town,” Conlow said. “We need to be less reactionary and more proactive as far as getting the word out.”