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February 18, 2021

After 18 years, Island Institute leader Rob Snyder steps down

COURTESY / ISLAND INSTITUTE Rob Snyder resigned as president of the Island Institute, a Rockland nonprofit.

The longtime leader at the Island Institute is moving on from his 18-year tenure with the Rockland nonprofit, eight of those as president.

Rob Snyder will leave at the end of April for a job in the private sector. Effective March 15, Rob Beams, chief operating officer at the Island Institute, will serve as interim president.

Snyder’s next role will be with ACME Smoked Fish Corp., a privately-owned company in Brooklyn, N.Y., with manufacturing facilities across the eastern U.S., Chile and Denmark. Snyder will be the company’s first culture and sustainability officer, 

During his tenure, Snyder has been a driving force behind the growth and success of the Rockland-based nonprofit and its support for Maine’s island and coastal communities.

“Rob’s vision and leadership will be greatly missed by the Island Institute’s staff, board, and nonprofit partners,” Island Institute Board Chair Emily Lane said in a news release. “His unique approach to exploration, innovation, and culture has been integral to the success of the organization. We are grateful for his dedication to Maine’s islands and coastal communities, and we wish him the best of luck in his next chapter.”

The Island Institute was founded in 1983 and works with 120 island and coastal communities to strengthen economies, enhance education and share information and resources.

With a history rooted in Maine’s fisheries and working waterfronts, the Island Institute has extensive experience in project management, network-building and economic development, assuming a tis leadership role in managing myriad processes and partners to cultivate the coastline and islands that have long been a mainstay of the state’s economy. 

At the end of fiscal-year 2020, the nonprofit had $24.4 million invested in a range of programs that include educational funds, a fund for Maine islands and its island fellows programs. 

Under Snyder’s leadership, the institute has worked on projects such as helping island residents find creative ways to diversify their income and helping island and coastal communities invest in broadband networks.

In a signature move, Snyder took the lead in 2020 when the institute partnered with Portland-based Luke’s Lobster to build an e-commerce platform for wild and farmed seafood producers throughout Maine to help them build new markets during the pandemic.

Around the same time, the institute began spearheading an industry-wide roadmap to grow the state’s marine economy.

In recent years, other projects have included fostering the development of Maine's aquaculture industry, launching a program to help small businesses, performing “deep-dive” studies of coastal and island economies, and helping to drive renewable energy projects in small communities.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve this organization over the past 18 years,” Snyder said in the release. “I love the Island Institute and am very proud of what the organization accomplished during my tenure. We have a talented, dedicated team of people who truly care about the coast of Maine, are part of the communities we serve, and can flex to address any problem that our coast will face in the future. This organization has never been more vital.”

Over the next several months, the board of trustees will be working with a talent recruitment firm to conduct a national search for the Island Institute’s next president. 

Beams, the interim, said: “Rob’s foresight and guidance helped recruit an incredible staff, including a leadership team with the expertise to lead our organization through this transition to a new president. It’s an exciting time for the Island Institute.

"We're growing and hiring for new positions to build our teams and further strengthen our focus on climate action, the coastal economy, and investments in community infrastructure and leadership. We are committed to helping our islands and coast meet the challenges ahead, and we look forward to working with our partners, supporters, and communities to continue to build resilience along the Maine coast.”

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