November 28, 2014

GNG business summit - it takes a community - By Tracy Scheckel and Michelle Libby

The Gray – New Gloucester Development Corporation (GNGDC) hosted more that 70 Gray and New Gloucester business owners, elected officials and town staff at a business summit on November 12. Charles Lawton of Planning Decisions in Portland, and Governor LePage’s chief economic advisor John Butera were the keynote speakers for the event.

During his presentation, Butera emphasized that government cannot create jobs or economic development, but that its place is to assist the private sector toward those goals.  He said “There are three ways to get more private jobs. Attract a new business, create a new business or help existing business to grow. Attracting new business is the easy one.” He added that attracting new businesses is hardest and the one that locals have the least amount of control over. 

With Maine being 49th in the US for business, according to Forbes. Butera recommends that we set policy, lower taxes, lower regulation at the state level and lower energy cost. “What is the compelling reason to get somebody to come here?” he asked. He called for businesses to be advocates for its employees and when it comes to policies. 

“Businesses are customers too. They pay the people who buy from businesses,” he said. 

 Lawton presented recent demographic research regarding age and race for Cumberland County, and suggested that the communities embrace and work to accommodate the change in population demographics in order to grow the local economy and increase the skilled workforce.

“Where will the work force come from?” Lawton asked. He used the analogy of economic gardening. “It’s good to sit here in the winter and look at our seed catalog to decide what to plant. If we don’t have the seeds, they’re not going to grow.” The people moving to Gray and New Gloucester need to be of child bearing years and if not, those people need to be persuaded to move here. 

“They’re going to come from people who don’t look like us. We’ll have to welcome and integrate ELS and set training programs for the parents. If there’s a brand that can provide for the next 20 years, be the community that brands themselves as welcoming to people of color and other races,” Lawton said.

Other jobs that will be necessary in the upcoming years are things like electronic instrument repair, diesel repair and composite application. Employees will need the ability to communicate, work in teams and collaborate.

“Gray-New Gloucester can escape the demographic of being the oldest and whitest state in the nation,” Lawton said. 

Also participating in the program were several local presenters. Kirk Hill and John Moore shared information about the Maine Top Gun mentoring program for new businesses and shared their stories about their desire and efforts to be able to conduct their businesses in Maine. The Top Gun Prep program is a 12-week online class to prepare students for the Top Gun program. (
“Great ideas are a dime a dozen. It takes dedication, dedication, dedication,” said Moore. 

Eric Klein, principal at Gray– New Gloucester High School spoke about having a mentoring program for the high school. He noted the number of students going on to a 4-year college is 54 percent. That means for 46 percent of students there are no business opportunities that have been cultivated. Klein encouraged businesses to talk to him about providing students with a broader view of career options through a mentoring or job shadowing effort.

The presentations ended with a panel discussion led by questions and comments from the audience.
“If you are always cutting to make the expenditure bottom line, you need a job coach,” said Butera.
Using the Internet is a good way to get businesses a broader market base. If businesses are not reaching the “digital natives” (the teens and younger of today), “You’re behind the eight ball.”

Although the GNGDC sponsored and coordinated the summit, in his remarks, GNGDC President Leo Credit emphasized that the cooperation and coordination with both Gray and New Gloucester staff and volunteers was integral to the success of the evening. Volunteers from NGTV 3, New Gloucester’s local access TV channel were on hand to record the summit and will air it once the editing is complete.

In addition to conducting the annual GNG business summit, the GNGDC is gearing up to publish its 2015 edition of the GNG Local Magazine, and hopes to develop a small business incubator grant program within the next year. Visit for more information about the GNGDC and its current and future initiatives.

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