The Bangor Daily News was honored to host October’s Business After Hours event, presented by the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce and hosted by a Bangor area business each month. We took this chance to bring together members of the business community as an opportunity to talk about the Bangor region’s economy and its prospects for growth — a topic our Maine Focus team has covered in a recent series.
Evan Richert, principal of Richert Planning and a former state planning director, and Richard Barringer, professor emeritus of USM’s Muskie School of Public Service, discussed the importance of entrepreneurship and the central role of cities in powering Maine’s economy.
Evan Richert discussed a range of programs in the Bangor area that help entrepreneurs develop their ideas into businesses and existing businesses grow. Those programs fall under the umbrella of the non-profit UpStart Maine, of which Richert is board president.
Richard Barringer, a former state conservation commissioner and state planning director who served in the administrations of three Maine governors, offered lessons from a report he co-authored earlier this year called, “Greater Portland Tomorrow: Choices for Sustained Prosperity.”
“Cities and their surrounding regions are the drivers of prosperity all across the developed world, in today’s global, information- and technology-driven economy,” said Barringer, former founding director and emeritus professor at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine.
This applies to Maine as well, despite the state’s rural character and reputation. In order to grow sustainably, Barringer said, it helps for cities to have depth in a few sectors of the economy; a major airport; a nearby military base; strong educational and medical institutions; a growing population; and to pay careful attention to public infrastructure, public transportation and civic amenities such as open spaces, trails, parks and waterfront areas.
“As Greater Portland today is the economic driver of southern Maine, so Greater Bangor is the dominant economic driver of the north and will increasingly be so,” he said. (Read Barringer’s full prepared remarks here.)