December 09, 2018
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World Cup lessons may apply to midcoast region’s economy

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Dan Bookham
Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Area Chamber of Commerce

Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes in my company quickly figures out two things about me: I’m British, and I love soccer. Given that the soccer World Cup final is this coming Sunday, I will be quite distracted for a few days yet, even though my team, England, crashed out miserably at an early stage of the tournament.
It was actually the surprise failure of what looked on paper and in past results to be a strong England soccer team that sparked the thought behind this column. England went into the World Cup ranked eighth best in the world, with a storied history with the game, and with the most prolific goal-scoring record for any European team from the qualifying matches for the tournament. They lost to a team of German rookies and role players in the second round.
On closer examination, the much vaunted England team was fundamentally flawed. The glorious history? One World Cup win, 44 years ago. Last major progress? The semifinals in 1990. Over the intervening 20 years, England was able to draw on its legacy, traditions and great individual players to just about stay in contention with the planet’s best teams until their creaky structure and false assumptions were brutally exposed by the young Germany team who thrashed them 4 goals to 1 and sent them home to London. The Germans also had been dealing with similar legacy issues as recently as a decade ago: The difference was that they recognized where they needed work and humbly went about rebuilding.
So what does this have to do with the midcoast economy? The good news is I don’t think we are as pathetic as the England soccer team, but we do need to guard against the many of the same easy assumptions that allowed them to neglect their weaknesses while their declining strengths still flattered to deceive.
As a region we face challenges and opportunities relating to demographics, intercommunity and interorganization collaboration and efficiency, identity and representation, business retention and attraction, regulatory impact and government efficiency, infrastructure, and beyond. We could continue to assume that the way we have always tackled these does not need examination, as we have history and past results to point to. Or we could learn from the England soccer team’s mistakes and understand that nothing should be exempt from regular reconsideration, and new ideas can often complement and strengthen existing ones. We need to be working together to address these issues before any of them become critical.
The good news is that much of this work is already under way. The local chambers have been working ever more closely, Knox-Waldo Regional Economic Development is striving to provide a unified voice for economic development, and intercommunity collaboration is taking place at both the governmental and private spheres in both formal and informal ways. The key to all of this is — unlike England — never to take our eyes off the ball.
Dan Bookham is executive director of the Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce. Contact him by phone at 236-4404, e-mail at, or the Web at