HEBRON — "Deal-making over bridge-making" doomed recent attempts to pass health-care legislation, said U.S. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe in her keynote address Friday night at the 2010 annual dinner and awards ceremony of the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce.
Nevertheless, "it can still be done right," she told nearly 300 business leaders at the event held at Hebron Academy.
Snowe also expressed optimism that Congress will make progress on a jobs bill next week. She said it needs to be a workable economic model and it is important that the business community is given certainty in its provisions.
"A jobless recovery is simply not a true recovery," she said.
Her remarks included accounts of her work with the Senate Finance Committee to craft the first health care reform package last summer, but she said "the wheels came off" when it became a "bloated monstrosity" and artificial deadlines were imposed. Snowe also decried the atmosphere of partisanship in Washington, D.C.
Susan Goulet, outgoing chairwoman of the chamber Board of Directors, told the attendees, "The businesses of the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce are strong. These are people who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty and make things happen."
Goulet said the member businesses rose to the challenges of the past year's economic problems and responded with action, rather than sitting back and letting the economy run their businesses.
She mentioned a realty company that had an unexpected response when housing sales everywhere were declining. Helga Thurston of Paris Cape Realty doubled the firm's staff, rather than cutting employees, and business increased, Goulet said.
She also recognized confidence placed in the area and its businesses by Oxford Hills Federal Credit Union for renovating an empty building to use as its quarters.
Four community awards were presented at the event.
The chamber's Business of the Year Award went to Grover Gundrilling Inc. The firm is a second-generation company serving a specialized niche in the machine-tool world, working with customers to develop a means to produce a marketable product requiring deep precision holes.
Marjorie Medd received the Citizen of the Year Award, and the Employee of the Year Award went to Kevin Marshall of Flanders Electric.
Todd Truman of Turn Key Homes of Maine received the chamber's Rising Star of the Year Award.
John Williams, executive director of the chamber, said the turnout of nearly 300 members made this annual dinner the organization's largest ever. Williams, who was at the helm of the organization for several years, has returned to the executive director position after a five-year hiatus.