BANGOR, Maine — Michael Gallis made quite a few points in a nearly hourlong presentation at the Action Committee of 50 Trade and Logistics Forum on Thursday, but one thing the strategic planner stressed was that the United States needs to start thinking about its future even in the midst of the current economic struggle.
“Even though we in the U.S. are in a downturn, we should be thinking long term about how we’re going to fit in and investments we need to make in order to secure our future,” Gallis said after his presentation.
Gallis, founder of Michael Gallis and Associates in Charlotte, N.C., was one of many speakers who took to the podium at the Hilton Garden Inn throughout the day, with Gallis serving as keynote speaker.
The Action Committee of 50 is a nonprofit economic development corporation composed of leading business and civic leaders from the Bangor region. More than 100 business leaders from across the United States and Canada attended the forum.
Among the multiple slides Gallis showed was one showing that the unemployment rate isn’t as high in New England as it is in the Southeast and on the West Coast. He said Mainers should take advantage of that fact.
“The Northeast hasn’t been a go-go market like the Southeast and the West Coast, where they so vastly overbuilt and overpriced the markets that they really collapsed hard,” Gallis explained. “One of the advantages of slow growth was that we didn’t get into a high level of speculated activity, so it’s a big advantage here.”
One example Gallis pointed to was the fact that Birmingham, Ala., had a chance to become a major hub for Delta Air Lines near the turn of the century but didn’t take advantage of it. This week Alabama’s most populous county, Jefferson County, of which Birmingham is the county seat, filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.
“Taking action is the first step to really understand and react to the opportunity,” said Gallis.
Gallis also said that foreign countries, particularly China, are “getting way ahead of us” in terms of preparing for the future.
“And the problem [here] is, what debt is is what money you spent yesterday,” Gallis said. “We’re perplexed over how to solve the problems that we created yesterday, while other countries are looking at what are the opportunities in the future. So we’re solving yesterday’s problems while they’re creating tomorrow’s future.”
Other speakers Thursday included David Cole, the principal of David Cole Consulting; GAC Chemical Corp. President and CEO David Colter; University of Maine professor Habib Dagher; James H. Page, CEO of James W. Sewall Co.; Lincoln Pulp and Paper President and CEO Keith Van Scotter; Great Northern Paper President Peter Hanson; Maine Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner Bruce A. Van Note and Cianbro Chairman and CEO Peter Vigue.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.