by Dana Connors
Last week, we hosted our 22nd annual Leadership Summit, and although it looked very different this year from our previous summits, it didn’t disappoint! Each year, once the dust settles a bit, I take some time to reflect on this event. And each year for more than two decades now, I am always grateful for the willingness of legislators and business leaders to come together, even virtually, for frank, open dialog to the public policy issues facing our state.
Since 2000, we have invited business leaders and Statehouse leaders to our annual Leadership Summit to encourage ongoing conversations after the event concludes. The Leadership Summit affords us the opportunity to focus on collaboration, education, information, and understanding.
The diverse group of attendees includes business owners and leaders from Portland to MDI to Madawaska, legislative leadership and key committee members, the chancellors and presidents from educational institutions, economic development leaders, and representatives from local/regional chambers of commerce. The experience each brings to the conversation, rooted in their professions, geography, and demographic, adds to the collective perspective of these important conversations.
Our primary intent is plain and simple: To build communication and encourage conversations. This year, we built the event around existing road maps – the state’s Strategic Economic Plan, the recommendations of the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee, and the 2020 Measures of Growth report – as the basis for our discussions. The panelists’ conversations were open, informative, and sometimes lively, as they responded to questions from the business community.
As we move through this session, we hope the foundational discussions of the Leadership Summit lead to an increased understanding of the challenges faced by businesses and the challenges faced by those who represent us in Augusta. As we heard many times during this event, challenges are also opportunities!
Let us also remember that there will often be differing opinions on many public policy topics in the coming months, maybe agreement on some, and likely, more questions than answers on others. By the end of our Summit, we hope that increased understanding has begun. Understanding the impact of legislation is the first step to finding the answers, and that is why these conversations are so vital.
On behalf of the board and staff of the Maine State Chamber, I’d also like to thank the attendees and generous sponsors of this very unique event – one envied by my peers across the nation. Without willing participation and support from all the stakeholders, we would not have the opportunity to build statewide collaboration and understanding for the many issues affecting our employers, their employees, and their communities. We look forward to working together throughout the session, to continuing the conversations we began at this year’s Leadership Summit, and to providing a pathway through the pandemic recovery for our great state.