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September 27, 2017

Chamber says 'yes' to Twin Cities merger

Following a daylong retreat on Sept. 22, the board of the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has voted to support the merger of Lewiston and Auburn.

The referendum on the merger is scheduled to take place on Nov. 7. If voters approve merging the cities, the Lewiston Auburn Joint Charter Commission has chosen "Lewiston-Auburn" as the new name.

“The decision to take a position followed several months of conversation at the board level,and took into account a survey of the membership earlier this summer about the merger that found 63% in favor of combining the cities and 15% undecided,” Beckie Conrad, chamber president, said in a news release. “

Conrad said the board’s vote followed a morning of discussion reviewing the chamber’s mission, its current initiatives and how those initiatives supported what its members saw as the most important issues facing their business.

“Overwhelmingly, the business climate survey showed that the barriers to an even stronger local economy are workforce development and local image and that the chamber has a role to play in both areas,” Conrad said.

Of the chamber’s more than 1,050 members, 89% are from the for-profit sector, 10% from the not-for-profit sector and 1% from government.

“We all agreed,” Conrad said, “that Lewiston and Auburn are one economy. Business does not stop on the bridges and in all actuality our greatest strength is that the community functions as a large regional economic engine for Central Maine.”

Discussion of the merger was slated as a separate topic in the retreat’s afternoon session to consider how combining the two cities might have an impact on these issues.

“As part of being a leader in the community we must be innovative as well as recognize and support opportunities that move our region forward,” said Robin Robbins, board chair. “The board recognizes that a merger of the twin cities is the first step toward a stronger future. It will require engagement from businesses, organizations, civic leaders and residents all working in unison to develop a more vibrant Central Maine economy. The LA Metro Chamber is prepared to be a leader in ensuring that one merged community will be successful.”

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