I love the year-end recaps as it allows us to take a step back for a moment and recapture some of those good feelings from a year full of successes. This is our third and final part of our three-part year in review. In the first two parts, we dove into the first two-thirds of our year and the projects that we undertook, including our Chamber Works 2030 workforce program, our chamber networking events, our Cornerstone members, our new chamber name and more. If you missed those, I encourage you to log on to The Times Record website and search for the “From the Chamber” columns.

This week, I want to focus on our major event of the last part of the year and detail how it encapsulates the entire year. Then I want to give a little overview of what 2023 looks like to me, with the expectation that we’ll drill down a little deeper into specifics throughout these weekly columns in January. With that, let’s talk about the economic and community impact of the Midcoast Tree Festival.

4th Annual MTF raises the bar and celebrates community collaboration

The Midcoast Tree Festival began in 2019 as a fundraising event for three local organizations over the two weekends that surround Thanksgiving. We thought (“we” being our chamber of commerce, Spectrum Generations and All Saints Parish) that the businesses and communities we serve would respond positively to a big, six-day event. To see what it has grown into in just four years is incredible, and this latest edition was literally record-breaking on numerous levels.

The success of the event is entirely dependent on businesses and volunteers committing their time and resources to making it happen and local families taking the time to come and enjoy it. It’s one of my favorite things that we do all year, specifically because it takes so many people collaborating to make it a success. Sure, don’t get me wrong, the planning team that is responsible for the event (comprised of fewer than 10 of us) are absolute titans, and we’re all exhausted after the two-weekend marathon, but it literally could not happen without the businesses, volunteers and community members buying in.

This year’s record-breaking highlights were:

• A record number of tree spaces: 41 (we had 25 in 2021).
• A record dollar amount of total gifts given in those spaces: over $44,000 (up from $27K in 2020).
• A record fundraising increase: 25% increase, split evenly between Spectrum Generations (who runs Meals on Wheels and many other programs in our region), All Saints Parish (we host the event at St. John’s Community Center) and our Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber.


What is that impact, though? Sure, the fundraising is one goal, and that’s important to our planning team, but what other benefits are there? Well, for starters, no family won more than one tree space, which means 41 local families got a portion of $44,000 in gifts one month before the holidays, along with a tree in most cases. Each space had at least $500 worth of value, which they won for a 50-cent raffle ticket. How much is that impact worth through re-gifting and less stress on local families?

Here’s another number I love: 164 businesses were either a tree sponsor, event sponsor or had a gift card on one of the trees. That’s unreal! Set aside the fact that any of those 164 businesses got exposure and recognition for being there, but undoubtedly, some of those businesses got new customers or perhaps even recurring customers from those who won trees. These are tangible transactions that we could track (if we had a student who wanted such a project).

Think about the 123 gift cards alone (also a record) — what happens when you redeem a gift card? Typically, you don’t spend the exact amount on the card; you either spend only some of the amount and then go back again, or more likely, you do spend it all and then a little extra and that business gets additional business from that gift card. Now consider the businesses this customer stops at to and from redeeming that gift card. Oh, they picked up lunch after redeeming a retail gift card or went shopping next door after redeeming a restaurant gift card. Or they picked up a soda and got gas on the way. All of those purchases wouldn’t have happened without this gift card redemption.

Add to that the 1,500 families (also a record) that attended this year over the six days. What unplanned shopping did they do otherwise when they were out to attend the MTF? What ancillary money did businesses make just from having a busy, six-day event in our region? We had winners from Sanford and Lewiston traveling here (and potentially further — those are just two I spoke with personally).

The point is, through collaboration, in just four short years, we’ve built a community event that actually brings in the whole community. Businesses, volunteers and families all converge to make this beautiful event come together, and I couldn’t be prouder of the work we do on it. Mark your calendars for next year’s MTF: Nov. 17-19 and 24-26.

What to watch for in 2023

This year will be very interesting as housing and childcare issues become more impactful on the workforce. We’ll see dozens of new CEOs and presidents in our businesses or schools, along with an increased anxiety from business leaders to find staff. Being fully staffed will become even more competitive, with desperate businesses adapting their business model to suit their staffing levels, which could mean higher wages and benefits — but could also mean more automation. It’s an employee-driven market, and those businesses who recognize that will have the most gains.

There’s plenty to keep an eye on, and I’ll be here with it all weekly. Thanks for your loyal readership this year. See you in 2023.

Cory King is executive director of the Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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