If attendance at the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce annual event Imagine Portland is any indication, business is booming. Registration for the Jan. 30 gathering at Thompson’s Point Brick South reached 920.

“This is the biggest event we’ve ever put on,” said Executive Director Quincy Hentzel. “We have such a connected business community that does incredible work, and people were excited to rally together and celebrate people who make the Portland region the best place to live and work.”

“This is not just about Portland; this is about the entire region,” said Al Swallow, chief financial officer of MaineHealth, an event sponsor. “Tonight we celebrate leaders who have helped us move forward.”

David Brenerman, a former Portland mayor and city councilor who helped launch the Office of Economic Opportunity, received an award for leadership in the public sector. As chair of the City Council’s Economic Development Committee from 2016 to 2017, he was involved with development initiatives related to the waterfront, Bayside, downtown and the Motherhouse housing development in the former Sisters of Mercy Convent on Stevens Avenue.

“Having always lived in Portland, I’ve seen our city grow from a very sleepy community to what’s become a vibrant economic engine of northern New England,” said Brenerman, who continues to serve as board chairman of Creative Portland. “It’s been a great honor to serve the city of Portland and the state of Maine.”

The honor for leadership in the private sector went to Deanna Sherman, president and chief executive officer of Dead River Company and the 2019 campaign chair for the United Way of Greater Portland.

“The attendance, message and energy at the chamber’s event clearly demonstrates the momentum our region has as we collaborate to grow and prosper,” Sherman said. “It’s an exciting time to be part of the business community as we envision our future.”

The honor for leadership in economic development went to Charlie Eshbach, founding president and general manager of Portland Sea Dogs as well as founder of Strike Out Cancer in Kids, which has raised $4 million for the Maine Children’s Cancer program.

The surprise award of the night was the Visionary Volunteer of the Year, presented to an unsuspecting Jeremy Urquhart, who was volunteering as an usher. A financial advisor with Edward Jones and a U.S. Marine, Urquhart is on the Chamber’s regional board, the Westbrook-Gorham board and the PROPEL board.

“We all had to come without letting Jeremy know, because it was secretive,” said Urquhart’s mother, Amy MacDonald. “We wanted to share it without giving it away.”

That wasn’t the only surprise of the evening. Machias Savings Bank’s Vote to Give program concluded with a chance for attendees to vote for which of the top 5 nonprofits they would like to see win $5,000. Camp Sunshine won, but H.M. Payson softened the blow for the other top four organizations, donating $5,000 to be split between Krystal’s Sewing for a Cause, Project Sparrow, Maine Children’s Cancer Program and Make-a-Wish Maine.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

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