Nearly 350 people attended the GrowSmart Maine statewide Summit 2014 on Tuesday, October 21st at the Augusta Civic Center. In the opening session, Jared Duval of the Orton Family Foundation spoke about how storytelling builds community connections from which difficult strategies and hard decisions emerge. Noelle MacKay, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development spoke of how communities there respond to natural disasters and then prioritize future risk mitigation actions. John Piotti of Maine Farmland Trust closed this session by connecting the vigor of Maine’s downtowns to the economic and natural health of rural areas. In the afternoon, summit attendees heard keynote presentations from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston on their Working Cities Challenge and from Maine communities demonstrating regional and local successes.
"We were pleased to learn about examples of collaboration in Maine around its assets and opportunities, and especially around efforts that are cross-sector,” said Prabal Chakrabarti, Vice President of Community Development, Regional and Community Outreach at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. “Too often, initiatives don't adequately engage either residents or the business community, and we heard some really good stories of progress with both. That said, Maine faces challenges that can only be solved through an ongoing commitment to collaboration. We were glad to attend to present our Working Cities Challenge model, what it is trying to achieve, and hear how from the audience how it may connect to projects in Maine"
Plenary sessions also included a brief annual membership meeting during which Paul Boghossian of the Hathaway Creative Center in Waterville and Gehring Green in Bethel was re-elected to the board and Carol Morris of Morris Communications was elected to her first term. Dr. Jack Kartez of USM Muskie School was recognized for his years of service as his final term on the board came to an end.
GrowSmart Maine released Making Headway in Your Community; a searchable website that will provide connections with local, regional, statewide and even national resources able to assist communities in identifying goals and completing on-the-ground projects. This effort is done in partnership with Maine Downtown Center, a program of Maine Development Foundation, by connecting Making Headway in Your Community with their online clearinghouse of projects from across Maine called My Green Downtown.
Mary Howes, of Otis Ventures LLC in Jay, Maine said, "I was very pleased to attend the 2014 GrowSmart Summit. There were lots of informative speakers and I especially learned a lot from the afternoon breakout session on historical tax credits. This will be helpful in future plans for renovating a historical paper mill into a multi-use facility"
Morning and afternoon breakout sessions provided expertise, information and tools to communities on land use, economy and tax policy, climate change adaptation and community.
The event closed with on a high note, with Capitol City Improv creating a musical act based on the sights and sounds of the day; Smart Growth – The Musical.
At GrowSmart Maine, our work depends on an engaged and informed citizenry. Held annually from 2004 to 2008 and revived in 2012, our Summit provides a great opportunity to bring Mainers – from town and state officials, to business people, environmentalists and concerned citizens – together to engage in the conversation about how to move Maine forward.
For more information, visit www.growsmartmaine.org