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October 9, 2019

Maine food producers and retailers will team up for Rockport summit

Courtesy / Retail Association of Maine The Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association and the Retail Association of Maine are bringing together retailers, grocers, food producers and industry partners for a day of education and fun. Seen here is a session from last year’s summit.

The Augusta-based Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association and the Retail Association of Maine will co-host a day-long educational conference later this month, bringing together retailers, grocers, food producers and industry partners.

The Summit will be held  at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, starting with a social hour Wednesday evening, Oct. 23, followed by a full schedule of events on Thursday, Oct. 24.

The agenda includes an opening presentation on legislative policy changes affecting small business. Also scheduled are a forum for food producers, a discussion of non-traditional employee populations, an overview of Generation Z shoppers, a speed-networking session and more.

This is the second year the two organizations have hosted the event together, Curtis Picard, president and CEO of the Retail Association of Maine, told Mainebiz. Each organization held separate events previously.

“But a couple of years ago we saw the agendas were fairly similar,” he said. “In this day and age it makes so much sense to collaborate.”

Small business focus

“We try to put a strong focus on workshops that will impact small businesses primarily,” he continued. Both organizations have larger national retailers in their memberships as well. “But we want to help small, locally owned businesses with workshops that will deliver value to them. All the participants will be able to apply something they learned to their businesses right away.”

For example, the Food Producer Open Forum will bring in prominent Maine food producers to discuss strategic changes they've made and how those have elevated their businesses. The discussion will allow attendees to share their own observations as well.

“It’s an opportunity for food producers to learn from one another,” Picard said.

Participating in a panel on legislative issues will be Ben Ford of Verrill, Elizabeth Brogan of Norman Hanson & DeTroy and Andy Hackman of Serlin Haley. Topics include paid time off, pay equality, changes in workers' comp laws and environmental issues such as the plastic bag ban. 

Ford will also conduce a breakout session called the HR Handbook Workshop, which will advise employers on how to implement required changes in their employee handbooks. Attendees are encouraged to bring a copy of their own handbook.

“Last year, we saw that audience members felt comfortable asking some difficult questions,” Picard noted.

Non-traditional workforce

With a low unemployment rate and tight workforce, non-traditional employee populations are considered to be an important pipeline of future workers. 

“This will be a dynamite panel,” said Picard. “A lot of associations and industries are trying to find their way into this space. It’s hard finding quality employees right now.”

His association, he said, has been working with organizations like Goodwill of Northern New England and the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center to find solutions. “So we’re trying to let our attendees know there are other pools of employees out,” he said. “We’ll introduce people who have already gone down this path, and learn from their experiences and challenges.”

A special lunch keynote will be given by members of the Reny family.

“Renys is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year,” said Picard. “I reached out to the family and said it would be fun to have three generations of Renys on the same stage, and share some fun stories of your history and things people might not know. It should a good time.” 

The Summit will formally recognize Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association’s 2019 Food Producer, Grocer and Associate of the Year, as well as the Retail Association of Maine’s 2019 Retailer of the Year and Jim McGregor Award honorees.

To learn more about the event, click here.

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