LEWISTON — More than 525 business professionals of the Lewiston-Auburn area cheered the announcement of a new name for their organization as they honored community leaders at the chamber’s 128th annual meeting Thursday night.

Matt J. Leonard, president and CEO of the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, said the annual awards focus attention on some of the most noteworthy examples of corporate citizenship in Central and Western Maine.

“It’s time to accelerate our organization’s success,” Leonard told the large audience at the Ramada Conference Center in Lewiston. He said the L-A area and surrounding communities “are on the cusp of something great.”

The dinner and awards ceremony showcased the accomplishments of seven distinguished members. It also served to introduce the organization’s new logo and launched a new chamber website.

The changes came about in response to input from members and the community, Leonard said, noting that the new name “now makes us relevant to a much larger audience in a changing marketplace.”

At the awards presentation Thursday night, Oxford Casino received the 2016 Business Leadership Award.

“Perhaps no single venture has had such a dramatically positive impact on the economy of the lakes and mountains tourism region of Maine in the last couple of years,” Leonard said.

The prestigious Chamber Champion Award was given to Chip Morrison, who retired a year ago after leading the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce for 20 years.

In his acceptance remarks for the award made in honor of noted L-A booster Ray Geiger, Morrison said, “It seems strange to be given an award for doing a job that I loved so much.”

The Lewiston-Auburn area is a place “where people work together,” he said, noting that “the absolute strength of these communities is the people who live here. Thank you for letting me be a part of this great success story.”  

The inaugural Theresa Sampson Award for Women’s Business Leadership went to Sandy Marquis, co-owner of Marquis Signs in Lewiston. It was made in recognition of her work for the board of directors of the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council and Lewiston Development Corporation; for spearheading a film festival; for producing the documentary film, “Raising Ali;” and for working as a tireless downtown event planner and organizer.

Sampson presented this first award, made in her honor, which recognizes her early accomplishments as a leader of the community’s women in business, notably for Hudson Bus Lines.

The Outstanding Member Award is the only annual award for which the recipient is selected by chamber staff. It was presented to Francis Gagnon, executive director of Via-Vision Film & Video Productions and Photo Finish in Auburn. For many years, Gagnon has quietly and voluntarily recorded every Chamber Breakfast as well as numerous other events.

The President’s Award went to Peggy Rotundo, state senator from Lewiston from 2000-08 and a current member of the Maine House of Representatives.

Leonard said one of the most significant affiliations of Rotundo’s distinguished career is her service on the advisory board of the Margaret Chase Smith Public Policy Center, a nonpartisan, independent research and public service unit of the University of Maine.

She has championed many important local organizations, including College for ME-Androscoggin and has been among the staunchest supporters of the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College.

Leonard said Rotundo’s most enduring legacy, “in the grand tradition of Maine’s most respected political figures, is her demonstration of and commitment to the value of reasonable, responsible, respectful political dialogue intended only to benefit the citizens of Maine.”

The Ken Additon Award for Small Business Advocacy went to Diane Jackson of Oxford, who was regional representative for U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe for 10 years beginning in 2002. For the past two years, Jackson has served as the governor’s account executive for the Maine Department of Economic & Community Development, serving Androscoggin, Oxford, Franklin counties as primary point of contact for businesses looking to start up, expand or relocate within Maine.

Mark Cayer, Lewiston City Council president, received the 2016 Community Service Award. He has been involved in numerous initiatives, most notably the Riverfront Island Master Plan and the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin from Maine’s 2nd District told the audience the communities are greatly enriched by the presence of facilities such as major hospitals, The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing in Lewiston, the Dolard and Priscilla Gendron Franco Center and Museum L-A.

In keynote remarks, Paul Anderson, president of Androscoggin Bank, told the chamber members, “We cannot rely on government to create jobs. The best social medicine of all is a job.”

Winner of the Ray Geiger Award for being a Chamber champion

Winner of the President’s Award

Winner of the Outstanding Member Award

Winner of the Ken Additon Award for small business advocacy

Oxford Casino, winner of the Business Leadership Award

Winner of the Theresa Sampson Award for women’s business leadership 

Winner of the Community Service Award

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