Before becoming the executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber in 2016, I was the executive director of the Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce beginning in 2007. At each stop, I’ve had the pleasure of writing either weekly or monthly columns in local newspapers. It’s a great outlet for me to give thoughts to the business community in my region and also to share the views and thoughts of the businesses I represent with the citizens of the communities we represent.

Though each article I write is unique, there are some consistent articles depending on the time of year. Before the chamber’s awards dinner, you can expect profiles of the business leaders we are giving awards to. Around Thanksgiving you can expect a list of things we are thankful for. At the end of the year, or in early January, you can find a year-end recap and a look ahead at the year to come. And, in July you can expect this article- the mid-year review. Of course, 2020 makes this mid-year review unlike any other year.

There is a meme I saw on Facebook this weekend which was something to the effect of “in the future we can replace the word ‘crazy’ with ‘2020’, such as “we were having a simple discussion, and he went all ‘2020’ on us” or “this weather went from calm to ‘2020’ in just a few minutes.”

It’s been the longest six months I can remember, with our expectations for the year shifting drastically. Also, things that happened months ago feel like they happened years ago. For instance, we’re halfway between Super Tuesday (when Biden basically secured the nomination) and the General Election. To me, Super Tuesday feels like 8 months ago, when it has barely been four months. The Australian wild fires were burning for nine months with the final fire being put out on the day after Super Tuesday (March 4). Did you even remember the Australian wild fires?

Locally, much has changed too. There have been struggles, and unforeseen adjustments we’ve all had to make, yet a tremendous amount of good has happened as well. This week and next I want to highlight things that have happened in the first six months of 2020 and try to take a lesson from some of them moving forward. As we get into next week we will highlight some topics you can look forward to in the second half of the year. Much of this is Chamber-centric, as that is the story I know best, but I’ll be highlighting many local organizations, businesses and local leaders too.

January 2020
2020 began with a big focus on workforce development, due to having one of the lowest unemployment rates in history. Our chamber was preparing to convene the first meeting of our Workforce Advisory Council to discuss selecting 2-3 workforce programs that we could implement in 2020. The Council is to consist of local industry leaders and educators.

Also, the Chamber held our Annual Meeting of the Membership at our January After Hours (thank you to The Highlands for being our outstanding host) where we introduced our 2020 Board of Directors. We thanked our departing board members revealed new officers and welcomed new board members. Also that month we approved pursuit of a Bowdoin Student board member.

Thank you to Michelle Curtis, now of Machias Savings Bank and Building Blocks Day Care Center and Don Spann of REMAX/Riverside for becoming Vice President and 2nd Vice President, joining Andy Sturgeon and Nick DeBlois, who continued on an additional year as Board President and Treasurer/Secretary, respectively. Welcome to our new Board Members: Earle Harvey of JMH Associates, Shannon Anketell of Bath Savings, Randee Reynolds of Mid Coast-Parkview Health and Angela Lallier of Atlantic Federal Credit Union for jumping on as new directors.

January Takeaway: New directors are always exciting as it brings new perspective to the leadership team. Our new board members have experience from other boards which is helpful too. Also, the workforce programs are not gone, just delayed. We still have every intention of launching 2-3 workforce programs once we return to some set of normalcy in our businesses and at school and we’ll continue to strengthen the relationship between the businesses and schools.

February 2020
February was loaded with preparation for our early March Awards Dinner but also continuing our other work- unaware how Covid-19 would disrupt our lives by mid-March. We announced our 2020 Award Winners: Jim Howard (Harry C. Crooker Lifetime Achievement Award), Nick Favreau (Young Professional), Kevin Clark (Volunteer), Diane Bowen (Joshua L. Chamberlain Award), The Highlands (Large Business), One River CPAs (Small Business), Region 10 Technical High School (President’s Award) and Midcoast Community Alliance (Director’s Award).

One winner, Jim Howard, was going to be on a family trip f0r the Awards Night (March 6) but we were able to organize a special ceremony on the last day of the month (Feb. 28) to honor him in front of two dozen friends and family members. Between that announcement in the first week, and Jim’s ceremony at the end of the month we also had: a workforce meeting with Superintendents from three local school districts, our only other 2020 Chamber After Hours happened at Pat’s Pizza in Brunswick, we met with legislators and business leaders at the Maine State Chamber Leadership Summit in Bethel, and we restarted our Ambassadors Team.

February Takeaway: The special ceremony with Jim was incredible (the video is on our YouTube page and we played it at the Dinner). The After Hours is an interesting takeaway- several regulars said they would try and make the next one- who knew the next one wouldn’t have happened yet. I suppose there is a ‘seize the day’ moral in that story.

Next week, we’ll look at the massive shift that was March, April, May and June and look forward to the second half of 2020.

Cory R. King is the executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber.

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