Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce.

It’s about all of us.

The Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce is the regional voice of our communities, contributing directly to our quality of life, representing its members and our towns in Augusta, attracting visitors to the area, helping local businesses grow and prosper and new businesses to take root and create jobs. And in the process, it has become the largest regional chamber in the state with nearly 1,400 members.

“When we extol the strengths of our communities, we’re not simply engaging in ‘boosterism,’” long-time Chamber CEO Chip Morrison explained at a recent installment of the Chamber’s monthly breakfast series; although, he said, “My job is to ‘sell’ the Twin Cities. I am paid to tell people and businesses how great the Lewiston-Auburn area is — to promote our communities and to brag about our renaissance.

So really, when the president of a chamber of commerce tells you that his community is thriving and has all the ingredients for success — in a word, when I tell you that ‘It’s Happening Here’ — shouldn’t you be at least somewhat skeptical? The answer is yes, absolutely.”

But the characteristics that Morrison talks about with so much enthusiasm are those of resurgence, of quality of place and community. The growth and vibrancy of the community is reflected in the growth and vibrancy of the Chamber, whose membership has increased two and a half fold in the past 10 years or so.

And the membership reflects the diversity that is the underpinning of the region’s renewed vigor, including about 120 non-profit organizations, more than a dozen municipalities and quasi-public sector institutions, and over 1,250 traditional businesses that collectively represent

some 45,000 employees (which would make the membership the second biggest city

in Maine).

The Chamber has had a direct role in much of the growth and dynamism of the community by creating an environment in which individual enterprise can thrive, by advocating on behalf of its members with local, state and federal legislators, agencies and regulators. It supports its members with a wide range of networking opportunities, access to education, information, and expertise that will help them in the successful pursuit of their own missions.

The work of the Chamber is undertaken

by four standing committees of its own

plus another five committees which fulfill the mission of the Chamber’s semi-autonomous program, YPLAA (Young Professionals of the Lewiston-Auburn Area, pronounced Why-Play).

The Business Advocacy Committee works most directly with elected officials at every level of government to help “foster business growth and regional economic development.” Among the committee’s targeted efforts for this current year is a strengthened commitment to promote “local action on collaboration and cooperation between the cities of Lewiston and Auburn.”

The Member Services Committee supports a wide variety of member-benefits, from insurance options to member-to-member discounts, to lots of networking, informational and educational opportunities. Among its concentrations this year is the provision of particular services and mentoring to new or fledgling small business members.

This committee is also committed to expanding collaboration between the Chamber and the YPLAA committees — L/A Betterment, Communications, Personal and Professional Development, Networking and Community Involvement, and the YPLAA Steering Committee.

The new L/A Area Business Showcase television series, hosted by the ubiquitous Morrison (who, it is rumored, may attend as many as 500 meetings each year, not including Chamber meetings), is also a program of

this committee.

The Education-Business Partnership Committee has been advocating relentlessly foryears to improve dialog between educators and employers, to raise tens

of thousands of dollars for a diverse array

of scholarship programs, and to encourage local residents to pursue post-secondary education. The Chamber helps implement Junior Achievement programming in local schools, supports career and job fairs, and the Androscoggin Leadership Development Institute which helps expand the pool of future leaders for public, private and nonprofit enterprise in our communities.

New this year, the committee will help develop programming for Entrepreneurs’ Week, and will be working with the Finance Authority of Maine to help bring financial literacy programs to local schools.

As the Chamber’s “road show” asserts, “Recent stories in the Wall Street Journal, New England Cable News, Newsweek, and the Boston Globe have focused NOT on a mill town that is crumbling, or about civil unrest, or even about employers closing their doors. Rather, they have all covered our renaissance. The Globe summed it up best:

‘A newer, hipper L/A.’ Who knew?”

The Regional Image Development Committee continues to let the rest of Maine know that the L/A area has changed dramatically and is a cool place to live, work, and learn. It directly supports LAEGC’s “It’s Happening Here” campaign to broaden efforts to market the positive attributes and activities of Androscoggin County and promotes Androscoggin County as a tourist destination, a surprisingly successful initiative celebrated in a new “road show” the Chamber makes available to civic groups which enumerates the astonishing successes of recent outreach efforts. A renewed emphasis this year will be to ensure that local residents also develop an enriched understanding of everything our communities have to offer.

The Chamber’s mission is not just to ensure that people know about what’s happening here, it is most importantly to ensure that it continues happening here; work that, according to Morrison, “is made possible by the thousands of hours of time and effort graciously provided by our membership.”

There is strength in numbers, indeed, and our region is indeed made stronger by the strength of the Chamber’s membership.

The Business Service Center

at KeyBank Plaza

415 Lisbon Street,

PO Box 59

Lewiston, Maine 04243

207-783-2249

www.androscoggincounty.com


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