The Bangor region has almost everything going for it, the state’s new governor, Janet Mills, said on Friday night.
She praised numerous of the region’s assets, including its institutions of health care, research and higher education; its police department; the Bangor Troop Greeters, who welcome soldiers coming home to Maine; and a symphony orchestra so magnanimous that it gave free tickets to furloughed federal workers during the recent government shutdown.
But Mills did have one bone to pick during her brief remarks at the annual dinner of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce.
“The only thing Bangor lacks,” she said, “is an ice disc.”
Mills cracked a grin and opened her arms out wide, earning a round of laughter. She was referring to the giant circle of ice that was recently discovered just outside Portland, slowly rotating in a bend of the Presumpscot River in Westbrook. The disc, which looks mysterious and vaguely martian from above, has captured the world’s attention.
In fact, spinning circles of ice have been seen in waterways close to Bangor, too. One was found northwest of Millinocket on the Penobscot River. Another was spotted in Baxter State Park. A third has been reported in the Hancock County town of Surry.
But they were not as breathtaking as the one in Westbrook.
Besides that joke, Mills also made more serious remarks during her appearance Friday night at the annual dinner of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, an event that drew more than 1,000 people to the Cross Insurance Center.
During the event, the organization presented multiple awards to people in the business and nonprofit communities. Its highest honor, the Norbert X. Dowd Award, went to Michael Aube, the recently retired president of the regional organization Eastern Maine Development Corp.
Toward the start of the program, the new governor was invited on stage, where she stood next to a decorative silhouette of Paul Bunyan and delivered about three minutes of remarks.
Mills praised a 2015 piece by the Bangor Daily News about the seriousness of the state’s opioid epidemic and the experience of a young man who fell victim to it. A former Maine attorney general who has made fighting the opioid crisis a banner goal of her governorship, Mills said that article was one of the reasons she pursued higher office.
Mills told the people of the Bangor area that, as governor, she wanted to hear about their concerns. “You’ll see in my office an open door,” she said.
In an interview before the dinner, Mills also expressed gratitude that President Donald Trump and congressional leaders had reached a short-term agreement to reopen the federal government for three weeks.
“I think it’s great,” Mills said. “It’s a sigh of relief everybody is uttering. People in the Coast Guard have been working without pay, and all these federal employees, they absolutely deserve this break, and they deserve this not to happen again.”
Numerous other businesses, people and organizations received awards — trophies shaped like Paul Bunyan — during the annual dinner of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce.
CES Inc., an engineering consulting firm based in Brewer, was named Business of the Year.
The M. Jane Irving Community Service Award went to the Bangor Area Recovery Network, or BARN, an organization that helps people recovering from addictions.
The Catherine Lebowitz Award for Public Service went to Evan Richert, president of the Bangor Target Area Development Corporation and founder of UpStart Maine.
The Nonprofit of the Year Award went to Good Shepherd Food Bank.
The Arthur Comstock Professional Service Award went to Renee Kelly, assistant vice president for innovation and economic development at the University of Maine.
The Bion & Dorain Foster Entrepreneurship Award went to CourseStorm, an Orono company that builds education software.