AUGUSTA – Citing its exceptional corporate citizenry, good-paying jobs and environmental sensitivity, Poland Spring will be honored this week at the Maine Development Foundation’s annual meeting.

The water bottler will receive MDF’s Champion of Economic Achievement Award at the 30th annual meeting of the foundation, created by Gov. Ken Curtis to invigorate Maine’s economy. The conference is set for Thursday, Sept. 18, at the Augusta Civic Center.

“Poland Spring is a model business,” wrote Alison Hagerstrom, executive director of the Greater Franklin Development Corp., in her nomination letter to MDF. “Using a rapidly renewable resource, they have created over 800 direct jobs and hundreds more at businesses across Maine. They have set the standard for engagement in their communities.”

The letter cited the company’s patience and willingness to work with the community in siting its bottling operation in Kingfield – a $60 million investment that created 60 jobs for the area. Three other letters echoed Hagerstrom’s accolades, including one from the chairman of the Kingfield Board of Selectmen, which recognized the company’s good works in the community, such as donations to build a new playground and restore a Dahlov Ipcar mural.

Laurie Lachance, MDF executive director, also lauded Poland Spring, especially in light of the controversies that have surrounded some of its projects. The company faced opposition over its extraction of water from local aquifers, as well as an effort to impose a state bottled-water tax.

“I’m thrilled for Poland Spring,” said Lachance. “They have been through a lot.”

Also selected as economic champions were Unum, Jackson Laboratory and the Advanced Engineered Wood Composites Center at the University of Maine.

Honoring the economic champions is just part of the agenda for the conference. First lady Karen Baldacci will team with keynote speaker Jack Shonkoff, a Harvard professor, to talk about the importance of early childhood education in fostering a strong economy.

Shonkoff’s speech, “Investing in our Most Precious Assets: Making the Economic Case for Investment in Early Childhood,” continues the cause introduced by Attorney General Steven Rowe last year that draws the connection between preschool education and a more productive society.

The subject also allows Lachance to recognize some of Maine’s most important players in early childhood education in a slightly different version of her “Just Imagine” presentation that she annually delivers.

Rather than focus on the exceptional companies that are moving Maine forward, Lachance chose this 30th anniversary meeting to focus on the exceptional people.

“What is exciting is recognizing the people who’ve done extraordinary things,” said Lachance. “Our most precious assets really are people.”

Lachance said she was inspired to honor Maine people when she thought about the significance of MDF’s 30th anniversary.

“The fact that we even have a 30-year history is amazing,” she said. “As a nonprofit, that’s incredibly hard to do. There’s no guaranteed revenue stream from state government or anybody else. It’s miraculous that the organization has been able to stay true to its mandate.”

That commitment is a testament to all the people who’ve made MDF an agent of change, she said.

“I’m very proud of what we’ve done,” she said, citing the impact of programs such as Leadership Maine. “And I’m very humbled by all that’s left to be done.”

For more information about the annual meeting go to www.mdf.org


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