GrowSmart Maine’s 2023 Summit focuses on creating places to connect people

For Immediate Release: October 10, 2023

GrowSmart Maine’s Annual Summit will take place in Waterville, Maine, at the Waterville Opera House adjacent to the Paul J. Schupf Arts Center on Thursday, October 19, 2023 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The focus of this year’s summit is “Creating Places for Connecting People.” The recent public health crisis of loneliness and our growing divisiveness have made it harder to support and maintain these personal connections. But it is possible to create buildings, communities, and transportation systems that make connections easier. GrowSmart invites community activists, local and state elected officials, municipal staff and volunteers, land use planners, public health specialists and engaged citizens  to come share strategies and inspire actions that support human connection for each community and to Maine.

The event will feature two engaging keynotes, Maine’s own Jane Lafleur, principal of Jane Lafleur Consultants, the founder of The Community Institute, and a Community Heart & Soul coach, and Dr. Jeremy Nobel, founder of the Foundation for Art & Healing and author of Project UnLonely: Healing Our Crisis of Disconnection. Summit attendees will receive a copy of Dr. Nobel’s book.

Dr. Jeremy Nobel, says, “Loneliness and disconnection is, quite literally, killing us. It’s a growing public health crisis that requires a multi-dimensional and multi-stakeholder approach. I’m excited to share with the diverse participants of the Grow Smart Maine Annual Summit some thoughts on the epidemic of loneliness we face and how the arts and creative engagement can unlock our imaginations to help us design communities that engage, inspire, empower, and connect.”

Jane Lafleur agrees. “When cities and towns provide places for people to gather and socialize, not only does our personal health and well-being improve, but the attractiveness of our communities and their economic health improves. People want to visit, move to, and invest in these communities.”

“While the focus of this year’s event may seem unexpected at first, our ability to connect with neighbors and others where we live and work is one of the greatest values of built and natural places that are well planned and well cared for. I am immensely pleased with the response we’ve been hearing, from people across sectors and across the state who are eager to have these conversations.” says Nancy Smith, CEO, GrowSmart Maine.

This year’s keynote speakers will share stories from their state and national perspectives of the importance of social connections and designing and creating places that encourage human interaction and the urgent need to do so. 

The program also includes Community Spotlights, the announcement of the 2023 Maine Smart Growth Award winners, City Experience Walking Tours, and a post-Summit reception.

Kim Lindlof, President & CEO, Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, says, “We are thrilled to be able to show off the recent changes in downtown Waterville that bring people of all backgrounds together. Enhanced walkability with access to plenty of parking make downtown Waterville particularly attractive to all including approximately 200 students living there.  With twenty-two restaurants of various nationalities and an emphasis on the arts, all in a four block area, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.”

The lead sponsors for this year’s event are Kennebec Savings Bank and the Maine Connectivity Authority.  

REGISTRATION: As a GrowSmart member, your registration is discounted. For membership, see Discounted rates for virtual attendance, seniors and students are also available.

GrowSmart Maine supports communities in navigating change by convening to action, sharing thought leadership, and advocating, all in alignment with smart growth principles.