BANGOR, MAINE (WABI) The economy in Eastern Maine has taken quite a few hits in recent years.
The Verso Mill in Bucksport shut down at the end of 2014, followed by Lincoln Pulp and Paper and Expera Speciality Solutions in Old Town the following year.
There have also been losses in the retails fields.
Today, business and industry leaders came together in Bangor for a transformation.
Joy Hollowell tells us more.
"This region was devastated by the loss of pulp and paper and investment," says Michael Aube, president and CEO of Eastern Maine Development Corporation. "We went through a re-engineering process for the last two years. Many of the people in the room here today helped engineer that. And so we now have a blueprint of going forward."
Business, academic and community leaders gathered in Bangor Monday to not only celebrate the economic successes of Eastern Maine, but also develop more opportunities for continued growth and development.
Developing Maine's technological highway was a recurring theme throughout the day. In particular, to both attract and keep workforce local.
"You can't just provide WiFi and assume people are going to use it," says Dr. Brien Walton, a moderator at the conference and a professor of entrepreneurship at Husson University. "We have to give them incentives for collaborating. So essentially looking at what people's skill sets are, what their businesses are doing and find ways to find collaborative partners for them."
Conference goers also heard from a futurist.
"I don't have a crystal ball. I'm not going to tell you something specific that's going to happen in 10 years," says Simon Anderson. "What I do as a futurist is I research everyday trends and technologies and then I help other people understand and consider the possibilities."
Anderson says utilizing satellites rather than fiber optics to further our broadband access, particularly in rural areas, could be one cost-effective tool. He also has high hopes for Maine's forest industry, although not in paper manufacturing.
"I think that there's a lot of value in the wood and in the forest," says Anderson. "It doesn't necessarily have to be paper. As a futurist, I would not necessarily say to look back to paper, we can't walk backward into the future. We have to keep looking at these new opportunities and find the value that is there."
The conference also featured national speakers, who shared their successes in engaging a community to recognize and embrace changing economic trends.
And there was one more reason to celebreate- this is Eastern Maine Development Corporation's 50th anniversary year.