More than four years ago the Board of Directors of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce began the process of remaking and revitalizing this organization.
It was a process that started with a new strategic plan, and one that included the hard decision to change the professional staff leadership of the organization. The vision for the Chamber was for it to become a strong, financially stable organization, one that would lead in its mission “to promote and advance a vital, healthy business environment.”
We are well on our way to achieving that vision. After some difficult times financially, we have posted positive financial results for four straight years. Our board and committees have a renewed focus on promoting the interests of private-sector businesses. And the Chamber has established itself as a leader in Maine, both in terms of programming and events as well as advocacy and economic development.
Highlights for 2013 include:
• Negotiation of a lease for our new home at 20 South Street, two years after we gave up our building in Bass Park to make way for the new Cross Insurance Center. This puts us in the heart of the city’s thriving waterfront district, just a few steps from downtown.
This also represents the first time in many years that the Chamber is no longer receiving an in-kind subsidy for its headquarters from the city. This did mean a dues increase and some financial restructuring, but as an advocacy organization focused on influencing policy at the local, state and federal level, there is real value in our being financially independent.
• We continued to work with our partners to advocate for policies that would benefit our region and its businesses. For instance, working closely with the Action Committee of 50 and other, we lobbied for a new energy bill that should, over time, help bring electricity costs down and increase access to more affordable natural gas.
• This was the year that we got to celebrate, along with many others in our region, our steadfast support for building a new arena and convention center in Bangor. This year will long be remembered for the opening of the Cross Insurance Center, and this project has sent a clear message that Bangor is poised to move forward as one of the most dynamic and vibrant communities in Maine and beyond.
• We added new programming and events in 2013, including a successful social media seminar series. And it is noteworthy that one of our programs, Fusion Bangor, which serves young professionals, has taken off in a big way with kick ball and dodge ball leagues, a successful annual event, dynamic promotion of our downtowns and much, much more.
Looking forward, our internal challenges include finishing the fit-out of our new space and making a restructured budget work. We have also set high goals in terms of being the state’s most dynamic regional chamber, recognized for both its advocacy and programming.
None of this would or could be possible without some amazing volunteer leaders – and I want to give a special shout-out to Andy Hamilton for stepping in for Jane Irving as chair after her unexpected passing in August. And of course, our terrific staff deserves a lot of credit.
This year we embark on a new, three-year strategic plan, one that looks to build on the previous good work. It is indeed a new chapter for the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, and we look forward to what the future will bring for our organization and the region.