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November 6, 2017

Maine Development Foundation honors 'champions of economic development'

Courtesy / Maine Development Foundation
Courtesy / Maine Development Foundation
Maine Development Foundation presented Robbins Lumber Inc. with a 2017 Champion of Economic Development Award at its annual meeting. Left to right: Yellow Light Breen, Maine Development Foundation president and CEO; James A. “Jimmy” Robbins, Robbins Lumber president; Alden Robbins, Robbins Lumber vice president/sales; Jenness Robbins, Robbins Lumber past president; Andy Hamilton, Eaton Peabody; and Sarah Curran, Maine Forest Economy Growth Initiative program director.

About Leadership Maine

Leadership Maine was founded in the belief that if you bring together Maine leaders, equip them with leadership skills, immerse them in the Maine economy, excite them about the future, and empower them to take action, they can move mountains. The program offers participants a unique statewide learning opportunity, designed to build a broad network of talented leaders in Maine to shape our state's future.

About the Maine Development Foundation

Created in statute in 1978, the Maine Development Foundation is a private, non-partisan membership organization that drives sustainable, long-term economic growth for the Maine. MDF stimulates new ideas, develops leaders, and provides common ground for solving problems and advancing issues by empowering leaders; strengthening communities; and guiding public policy with trusted economic research. To learn more about MDF, visit www.mdf.org.

The Maine Development Foundation presented its 2017 "champion of economic development" awards at its annual meeting in Bangor. It also presented University of Maine President Susan J. Hunter with its 2017 Kenneth M. Curtis Leadership Award.

In the spirit of the annual meeting's theme — "Attract, Build, Retain: Talent for Maine" — Robbins Lumber Inc. of Searsmont was honored for its long history of sustainable forest management and investment in Maine's forest resources.

Jonathan Labonte, MDF board member and executive director of the Governor's Office of Policy and Management, presented the 2017 Champion of Economic Development award to James A. "Jimmy" Robbins and Alden Robbins.

"This family-owned, fifth generation forestry, lumber and woods products business knows a thing or two about Maine's forest economy," Labonte said. "The Robbins family has managed Maine's forest resources sustainably so they can be here as a resource for future generations. They understand the history of Maine's forest economy, even as they look to the future by building a biomass plant that will not only help their business but also provide a boost to the local economy."

Founded in 1881 when Frank and Otis Robbins first opened their small stave mill on the St. George River, today Robbins Lumber Inc. owns and manages 30,000 acres of its own forests and buys logs from over 150 independent loggers. It is a vertically integrated forest products firm producing Eastern white pine lumber and byproducts in its mill, while at the same time caring for and growing forest products on its superbly managed woodlands. The company employs more than 115 people.

Robbins Lumber has played a key role in Maine Development Foundation's Forest Economy Growth Initiative, a collaborative effort launched in 2016 by forest product industry and community stakeholders to reinvigorate Maine's forest economy and ensure that Maine's rural communities prosper.

"The challenges to Maine's forest products industry are significant but not insurmountable. Robbins Lumber is a shining example of a Maine business committed to investment and stewardship," said Labonte.

UniTel and Unity Foundation

Courtesy / Maine Development Foundation
Courtesy / Maine Development Foundation
Maine Development Foundation presented UniTel and the Unity Foundation with a 2017 Champion of Economic Development Award. Left to right: Susan Corbett, Axiom Technologies CEO and Maine Development Foundation board member; Larry Sterrs, Unity Foundation chairman and CEO; Laurie Osgood, UniTel Inc. CEO, and Yellow Light Breen, Maine Development Foundation president and CEO.

UniTel, a Unity-based broadband provider, and the Unity Foundation also received MDF's 2017 Champion of Economic Development Award.

Susan Corbett, MDF board member and CEO of Axiom Technologies, presented the award to Larry Sterrs, chairman and CEO of Unity Foundation, and Laurie Osgood, CEO of UniTel.

"For a rural state like Maine, broadband connectivity is an essential tool to help people work, learn and lead productive lives," Corbett said. "Since 2015, UniTel and the Unity Foundation have partnered to bring valuable technology and educational opportunities to the region, providing free classes to individuals and businesses on topics such as internet safety, Microsoft products, social media, QuickBooks, and WordPress. With over 1,100 students logging almost 5,000 hours of instruction time, UniTel and the Unity Foundation are helping more Maine residents and businesses connect to the world."

As an independent provider of broadband and telecommunications services, UniTel Inc. installed miles of fiber in one of Maine's most rural areas, and currently provides reliable broadband to over 5,000 central Maine households and businesses.

The Unity Foundation was founded in 2000 by Bert and Coral Clifford, longtime Unity residents dedicated to improving the viability of their town. Today, the Unity Foundation invests in building the capacity of nonprofits that serve both local Maine communities and statewide needs.

Hunter receives Kenneth M. Curtis Leadership Award

Courtesy / Maine Development Foundation
Courtesy / Maine Development Foundation
Maine Development Foundation presented Susan J. Hunter, president of the University of Maine, with its 2017 Kenneth M. Curtis Leadership Award. Left to right: Jan Kearce, Maine Development Foundation VP of program impact and Leadership Maine program director, Susan J. Hunter, University of Maine president, and Yellow Light Breen, Maine Development Foundation president and CEO.

University of Maine President Susan J. Hunter received MDF's 2017 Kenneth M. Curtis Leadership Award, which is named in honor of former Maine governor Kenneth M. Curtis and is given annually to a graduate of MDF's Leadership Maine program.

Jan Kearce, vice president of program impact and Leadership Maine program director, presented the award to Hunter.

"The award is named for Maine's former governor Ken Curtis, who articulated the need for leaders able to influence change in the face of conflict and who lead by example," she said. "Dr. Hunter demonstrates exceptional, dynamic leadership in the community and in the state and most certainly serves as an example to others. Under [her] leadership, the University of Maine has not only welcomed some of the biggest incoming classes and attracted record number of out-of-state students, it's experienced significant increases in fundraising and gained momentum on its strategic pathways. [Hunter's] leadership extends far beyond her own campus as she creates a strong vision and strengthens the delivery system for higher education in Maine."

Hunter began her career in 1987 at the University of Maine as an adjunct instructor in zoology, holding key positions in faculty and leadership roles over the course of her academic career. In 2014, she became the University of Maine's 20th president, and its first female president.

Hunter, a resident of Norway, gives back to her community through volunteer roles with organizations focused on culture, math, art and music.

She is serving in her third term on the Maine Development Foundation board of directors.

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