Over the next five weeks, I want to share with you the stories of the seven business leaders who we honored on March 10 at our BBRC Annual Awards Night. Our chamber award winners are nominated by their peers for being outstanding supporters of the community.

If you’d like more information on these winners, you can log on to the chamber’s website to read their full profiles. Additionally, if you want to see the videos that were shown at the event on March 10, produced locally by Sturdy Production, you will find them this Friday on our Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Darling’s Brunswick Ford – Large Business of the Year

Before Darling’s Brunswick Ford opened their doors in December 2020, our chamber office received a phone call. It came from Lynne Darling, asking who could do a Christmas lights display this late in the season at their soon-to-be-acquired dealership on Bath Road in Brunswick, and also if we could set up a meeting to discuss how they can get plugged into the community. A few weeks later, we met, and Lynne simply said, “We love supporting the community — it’s our whole thing — who can we help and how?” I mentioned a number of organizations, having no idea that over the next three years, Darling’s would support nearly all of them in one way or another.

Darling’s has been in Maine since about the time there were automobiles to be sold, and they’ve been a leading employer in the Bangor area for generations. Though they are known for their auto dealerships, they also have Darling’s Insurance in Brewer, New Reach Financial in Bangor and several other businesses, too. Everywhere their name is, there are satisfied employees and an emphasis on customer service.

Andre Lester, assistant general manager at Darling’s Brunswick Ford, credits the employee satisfaction to regularly hearing owner Jay Darling insisting “No matter what, take care of your employees.” When we met, Andre told me that whenever Jay comes by the dealership he doesn’t enter through the showroom — he enters through the garage. He knows every mechanic’s name and their kids’ names, and he stops and talks with them before seeking out the managers and sales staff.

Another secret to their success isn’t a secret at all — it’s how engaged they get supporting community projects. In just a few minutes of talking, Andre listed off dozens of organizations and events that Darling’s supports, including donating an EV Van to Curtis Memorial Library for a bookmobile, supporting Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, Miles for Mills and the Travis Mills Foundation, Cornerstone Sponsorship of our chamber, title sponsor of two seals for Marine Mammals of Maine, the Chocolate Church Arts Center, the Maine Federation of Farmers Markets, being a tree sponsor at the Midcoast Tree Festival, supporting school sports programs all around the state, and sending their fundraising ice cream truck to well over 50 events annually.


That’s how you build a culture of caring. With their community-first approach, it’s no mystery how they get so many caring, incredible employees wanting to work with them. And if prospective employees don’t have that same mindset, Andre says they won’t hire them, regardless of how impressive their résumé may appear. That’s how you build a brand that has been respected in Maine for over 100 years.

Congratulations to our 2023 Large Business of the Year, Darling’s Brunswick Ford.

Midcoast Humane – Small Business of the Year

Some people don’t count every heartbeat under their roof as family, but most pet owners do. We don’t always realize how they shape, enrich, frustrate and weave their way into the fabric of our lives. With that bond comes true emotional attachment and companionship, and Midcoast Humane is one place that helps you through whatever step of the journey you happen to be on.

You could be at the beginning and finding a new family member to bring home. You could be taking classes to train your pet. It might be time for vaccinations or perhaps your pet got sick or injured and needs medical attention. Your living situation could have changed, and the new landlord doesn’t allow pets. Maybe someone passed away and their pets need a new home. Maybe your cat has a new litter that you don’t know what to do with. Maybe it’s time to make the difficult decision of saying goodbye.

Midcoast Humane has had an incredible 12 months, with the highlight of the year being the opening of their new, state-of-the-art clinic in June 2022 at 5 Industrial Parkway in Brunswick after 72 years in a well-loved but past-its-useable-life building on Range Road. It was time for a change as the previous shelter was the original home of the organization when it was conceived in 1950. The team moved hundreds of animals, dozens of staff and thousands of pounds of equipment into the new space outfitted with industry-leading medical facilities that allow for better X-rays, bloodwork and highly efficient spay/neuter treatment areas.

Besides the Brunswick location, the Edgecomb campus also sees many clients and animals every week. Between the two locations, they’ve seen a huge increase in adoptions, as they’re on pace to surpass last year’s adoptions by several hundred. In fact, the larger space at the new Brunswick facility has allowed for more animals to be welcomed from other animal-care facilities both in-state and out-of-state. Rural shelters in particular can have difficulty finding the right owners to place pets with, and when that happens, everyone is thankful that a place like Midcoast Humane exists where good animals have a better chance to find loving homes thanks to the constant traffic.

Midcoast Humane leads with love in all that they do; they change families and are there for people in some of their biggest moments of need. That always deserves to be celebrated.

Congratulations to Midcoast Humane, the 2023 Small Business of the Year.

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

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