The Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce continues to be the largest business membership and advocacy organization in the state; a position it achieved just over a year ago, even though the economy of Lewiston-Auburn and greater Androscoggin County is still smaller than that of the Portland area.

But the L-A economy is continuing its vigorous rebound from the depths of the recession, with more business formation, more downtown activity, more new jobs, a greater role as a regional transportation and logistical hub, more festivals, arts events and restaurants than there has been in decades.

“We are really proud of this community,” said Chip Morrison, long-time Chamber president, “and everything we’re all doing together to make this the best place to live, work and play in Maine. I think the extraordinary success of the Chamber is simply a reflection of the improving prosperity and quality of life in L-A. And,” he added, “and we have a renewed commitment to pay back the support the community has demonstrated for the Chamber with a big, new agenda of services and programs for our members.”

With about 1,400 members, there are at least a thousand reasons folks have chosen to join, Morrison said. “Some simply want to be supportive of the community, to give something back. Many join for the countless networking opportunities we offer, or the enrichment and educational programs.”

Others join the Chamber for access to its unique programs and services; but regardless of why they’ve joined, the Chamber wants to do all it can to make sure that membership is worthwhile and that everyone gets a great return on their investment not only of dues, but especially their time and commitment.

Between seminars, networking events, committee meetings and a social gathering or two, there have been about 20 different Chamber-sponsored activities scheduled in April and May alone, and that’s before the advent of the summer festival season in which the Chamber is a major partner.

“We survey our members every year,” Morrison explained, “to keep updated about those things they find most important or worthwhile, and then try to offer more of them. Plus the Member Services Committee led by Stephanie Gelinas and Kurk Lalemand, a collection of about 30 high-powered and dedicated individuals, focuses a lot of time and energy to the subject of how best to serve member interests.”

The Chamber’s own Resource Guide, the most comprehensive hard copy compendium of everything one needs to know about making the most of being a part of L-A, explains the Chamber’s attitude about economic development in this context: “From civic pride to downtown charm, the greater Lewiston and Auburn is in the midst of an electrifying revitalization [predicated on] Recreational Opportunities, Logistics, and Education.” And the Chamber’s work addresses each of those drivers of community growth and prosperity.

Monthly Chamber breakfast meetings regularly attract crowds of upwards of 250 people, as do the Business After Hours gatherings hosted at member locations.

In addition to facilitating connections between and among its members, the Chamber provides a continuing series of educational, training, critical thinking and organizational development classes, seminars, workshops and discussion groups, all designed to help members work smarter, not harder; and to derive maximum satisfaction from the work they do.

And in that spirit, the Chamber has instituted a new monthly program designed especially for small businesses: Chamber Mastermind. Meeting on the third Tuesday of the month, from 5-7 p.m. at the Chamber office, 415 Lisbon St., downtown Lewiston, each session includes networking opportunities, a short presentation from a specially chosen guest speaker, and a vigorous round table discussion intended to help participants find answers to perplexing challenges, expand their vision, and generally help them become more successful at what they do, whether they are in start-up, survival, growth, or mature stages of business evolution.

The series began in March with the topic “Top Five Tips for Working On Your Business, Not In It.” Other sessions are devoted to:

Top five sales tips for those who hate to sell (recognizing the principle that everyone is engaged in selling something, all the time)

Top five people tips (how to engage productively with just about anyone, anytime)

Top five cash management strategies

Top five tips on productivity

Top five things you can do to motivate staff

Selling your product or service

Top five prospecting tactics

Top five marketing tactics

Top owner’s skills

The series is facilitated by Kurk Lallemand, LPBC, of Next Level Business Coaching, and sessions cost only $10 each, or $50 for the year-long program of 10 sessions. Interested participants can attend any number of sessions, from one to all.

Together with other Chamber initiatives, such as the Androscoggin Leadership Development Institute, the work of the Young Professionals of Lewiston Auburn Area, and a wide array of brown-bag discussions and workshops, the Chamber Mastermind series is intended to provide busy business owners and managers with support, actionable information and continuing education, and respite from the grind of business operations; to enable those caught up in daily responsibilities to also take a long view of how they and their employees can grow and thrive.

“Widget makers are terrific at making widgets,” Morrison observed, “but not everyone has had time to fully develop all the special skills required to operate a successful 21st-century business in a crowded marketplace. The Mastermind series is intended to help fix that. It’s a refresher, a source of new thinking, a chance to compare notes. It’s just part of what we do every day to try to help our members get better at what they do. We think of it as continuing professional education for small business people, and we are excited to be able to provide this kind of experience for our members.”

Visit, call or write the Chamber at:

The Business Service Center

at KeyBank Plaza

415 Lisbon Street,

PO Box 59

Lewiston, Maine 04243

207-783-2249


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