|Transportation was one of the subjects discussed|
The Sebago Lake Rotary Club sponsored a presentation by the Greater Portland Council of Government (GPCOG), entitled ‘The Lakes Region: Today and Tomorrow’ held at the Windham Veterans Center on Thursday, March 21. The GPCOG’s executive director, Kristina Egan, was the keynote speaker and she spoke on the importance of community and businesses working together with local governments to address various issues.
Egan, a Freeport resident, has worked in the United States and abroad on the issues of: transportation, smart growth, energy, housing and climate initiatives as well as public policy.
Before she joined the coalition in 2011, Egan served as the director of the South Coast Rail project for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
The GPCOG’s vision for the future is “we are thriving economically, socially, and environmentally.” Egan presented data showing the rising cost of transportation, job growth and a worker shortage. She discussed reasons, related to income and housing, that individuals might move away from the Sebago Lakes Region.
She also brought attention to the many positives to the Sebago Lakes Region. The area has a diverse economy and growing public transportation. The Sebago Lakes Region has a strong school system with higher learning institutions (like St. Joseph’s College and University of Southern Maine) that are finding ways to integrate the community.
Egan stressed that there is a lot to be proud of and reminded attendees that it is our choice what the future holds for the region. For businesses, it’s important to have a productive, constructive relationship, she added.
She identified some of the ways a region can be made better: preserve rural areas, expand broadband access and find effective ways to manage traffic. Egan emphasized supporting local businesses by buying local. The rising problem of opioids and other drugs and the importance of finding a way to help those affected through a recovery process was discussed.
Being part of a team, like many of the businesses that were there for her presentation, is a big step toward success.
“Local government is the foundation of democracy in Maine,” Egan explained. “What we need to do is figure out how local governments can work together with the business community to make sure all our people are thriving. By creating great places and preserving our rural areas, town government has a really big role in doing those things. We know that that will be the secret of success for the future in the Sebago Lakes Region.”
Egan believes that the most important thing an individual can do is to be a cheerleader for the area. “It’s a wonderful place and we should be relentlessly positive in how we communicate about it to others,” she stated. “We need to acknowledge that we have challenges, but not dwell on them; focus on the things we can do together to create a brighter future.”
Tony Plante, Rotary Club president and GPCOG Director of Municipal Collaboration explained that The Rotary Club’s goal is to get people to start thinking, start talking about these things and begin acting. “A lot of collaboration begins with informal conversations around tables like these,” he said. “I think the more we bring people together, the more we convene them around issues of regional importance, the more natural opportunities for people to work together.”