LEWISTON — In one beat came word that Andover College on Lisbon Street is changing its name to Kaplan University.
In another, tongue-in-cheek plans for Bates Mill No. 5, such as turning it into the Stephen King Medical Clinic and Visitors Center or Chocolate Chip Morrison’s Cookie Factory, were announced.
Hosted by the Oddfellow Theater’s Mike Miclon in “Tonight Show”-speed and style, Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council’s annual dinner Thursday was long on laughs punctuated by news and announcements.
LAEGC Chairman Alan Hahnel announced both a young entrepreneur contest with a prize package that could reach $100,000 and a new group called The L-A Forum. He called the latter his BHAG, a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal to make Lewiston-Auburn the most desirable place to work and play in Maine.”
As envisioned, The L-A Forum would gather 10 to 25 community leaders to form a plan for the community and then, follow through, Hahnel said.
“We have awesome potential; we have great leaders, and we have momentum,” he said.
The problem? “We are a bunch of cats going in 35,000 directions. The missing link is everybody communicating, deciding a goal.”
The entrepreneur contest would aim to lure young people who have moved away and give them incentive to come back, Hahnel said.
The prize would be a mix of money and in-kind services from those such as lawyers and accountants.
More on both will come out over the year, Hahnel said.
Throughout the night, Miclon, with sidekick Jason Tardy, interviewed guests on a couch from his perch behind a desk on a raised stage surrounded by shrubbery. He warned early on that the evening was being broadcast live “all the way to Turner.” He got steady laughs and applause from the 300 people at the Ramada Inn.
Guests also got in the act. Former Gov. Angus King, a proponent of wind energy who is behind two proposed turbine projects, took to the couch and said he had breaking news to share. There had been “a major air spill” over a wind farm in western Maine.
“They’re up there with kites,” King said.
He talked power and politics, and praised the Twin Cities.
“Lewiston-Auburn has done the best job at economic development of any region in Maine,” King said. “It’s the cooperation between the two cities, and not the competition.”
Former Auburn Mayor Lee Young and Maine State Chamber of Commerce President Dana Connors also grabbed couch time. Guitarist Denny Breau took to the stage for two numbers.
Androscoggin College For ME President Christopher Quinn briefly got up to announce that “Andover College is about to become Kaplan University.”
As Kaplan, the school will offer a mix of online and classroom courses. According to its website, Kaplan has 600 locations in more than 30 countries. Andover College’s website says that school was bought by Kaplan Higher Education Corp. in 2005.
Quinn praised LAEGC President Lucien Gosselin, who is on Kaplan’s board of trustees, as “helping make this deal happen.”
Also part of the evening: LAEGC honored six local businesses and one individual.
“We want to honor excellence — excellence is what we have a lot of in Lewiston-Auburn,” Auburn Mayor Dick Gleason said.
Called forward to accept plaques:
• Hartt Transportation, a 62-year-old trucking company in Auburn with hundreds of employees.
• Bates College, for its investments and work in the community.
• Maine Family Federal Credit Union, which just added 16,000 square feet to its office space on Sabattus Street.
• St. Mary’s Health System, which is close to opening its new hospital emergency room.
• White Rock Distilleries, a third-generation family business that employs more than 200 people.
• Procter & Gamble for its Tambrands plant. Tambrand’s Rick Malinowski said roughly $350 million had been invested locally in the past 10 years.
• Ford Reiche, who sold his company Safe Handling last year. He said that after sailing and clearing his head, he plans to return to Lewiston to start a new business. He was mum on what that would be.