LEWISTON — They want to help shape the future of L-A and come out of the shadows a bit.
"We have so many valuable, worthwhile, fun things going on, but there's a lack of an overarching plan and direction," Gene Geiger, CEO of the Geiger Group, told about 40 people gathered for the Great Falls Forum at the Lewiston Public Library on Thursday.
That, he said, is where the L/A Future Forum wants to come in.
Created by the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council in August 2010, the group has 23 members from all over the community — Baxter Brewing, Harriman Associates, Bates College, Lewiston Auburn Magazine. It's met every other month, so far, to mostly sculpt its own framework.
"It's like herding cats," said Kathie Leonard, president and CEO of Auburn Manufacturing and group co-chairman with Geiger. "It's been the most painful thing I've ever done, but it's one of the best things we've ever done. We are actually on the same page now and we are going to be barreling forward."
Leonard said she sees L/A Future Forum as a place people take ideas. The group would act as a clearinghouse for what's already going on and engage the community. In 2012, the forum will focus on the river, education, in-migration and community integration.
Geiger, showing a slide labeled, "The challenge and promise of immigrants," said 6,000 people of African descent have moved to Lewiston-Auburn in recent years.
"They want to be part of the community; they want to contribute," he said. "They're not going to be going anywhere, so how do we make that work for all of us?"
The forum is working on action statements, a website and ways to measure its results. It isn't working against a pre-set timeline.
"We want to make the community the place to live, work and play in Maine," Leonard said. "It's a darn lofty goal. You have to have lofty goals or you're not going to achieve anything."