GrowSmart: Maine helping to grow Maine in the right Direction
"It’s astonishing, when you move around the state, finding out how many people are involved at the local level in their schools, government, and environmental organizations. They all are doing a part of the same thing — making Maine a better place. We love Maine, we all want it to change in certain ways but we don’t want to loose who we are." - Alan Caron founder of GrowSmart Maine
By Ramona du Houx
GrowSmart Maine, a Yarmouth-based nonprofit dedicated to helping Maine keep its character while it transitions into the global economy, kicked off its 2007 conference in Augusta with a speech on leadership by Harvard University Professor Ron Heifetz.
More than 800 people listened to the keynote address before breaking into smaller groups to discuss issues such as the environment, mill redevelopment, government, global warming, school reform, tourism, and passenger rail. Groups from Main Street Programs, government agencies, business development, and conservation organizations, nonprofits, as well as high school students all were focused on how they can help Maine progress economically without losing its natural beauty. They took Heifetz’s advice of, "You need to decide what DNA you want to hold onto, so you don’t lose the whole enterprise of what it means to be Maine."
Rick Wilson, a teacher from Brunswick high school brought his class (photo right) to participate in the workshops and lectures. "They are the future. The conference has shown them how important it is to be involved in their community. They are also excited to have been given the chance to participate." Wilson said he hopes to get his class engaged with the LRA Base realignment group who are determining how Brunswick Navel Air Station will be developed after BNAS closes.
"All of the participants are involved in one way or another in helping to form how Maine will be in the future. This conference is an opportunity for us to network and keeps the momentum going," said Alan Caron, president and founder of GrowSmart. "It’s astonishing, when you move around the state, finding out how many people are involved at the local level in their schools, government, and environmental organizations. They all are doing a part of the same thing — making Maine a better place. We love Maine, we all want it to change in certain ways but we don’t want to loose who we are."
Governor John Baldacci talks with Alan Caron, founder of GrowSmart Maine
GrowSmart Maine funded the Brookings Institute report that highlighted innovative ways in which Maine needs to change to move forward in the 21st-century economy. Two bond issues, one for research and development investments, and one for continued funding for Maine’s natural places of beauty, with Land for Maine’s Futures program, were influenced by the report. The Governor set up the Jobs and Innovation Council, a Quality Place and Growth Council and the legislature set up a Commission due to the Brookings findings.
"We’ve made tremendous progress since the release of the Brookings report a year ago. The governor has embraced the report and has taken needed action," said Caron. "We have a four-year plan, and we are going to keep at it until all the work gets done."
Photo: Henry Schmelzer (right), president of the Maine Community Foundation, congratulates Willow Rheault and Ron Phillips from Coastal Enterprises on receiving a 2007 Noyce Award for Nonprofit Excellence.
The governor gave a speech and congratulated participants on the great work they are achieving for the future of the state of Maine.
"We can’t have one foot in the past and one foot in the future. We need both feet in the future," said Governor Baldacci. "What the Brookings report means to me is, you know what needs to be done. You understand why we are going through these cuts, municipal reorganizations, and administrative reorganizations. It will pivot the state so we can invest more in colleges, education and training. We need to invest in R&D, so businesses can have the latest technologies, add Maine jobs and be successful on a global stage. We need to invest in Maine’s natural resources to continue to have the best place on earth to live and raise a family. GrowSmart understands. We are working together to move the state forward in the right direction."