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September 16, 2020

MEREDA conference combines Chamberlain, pandemic economic views

A smiling man stands on a european looking street Photo / Courtesy University of Southern Maine USM President Glenn Cummings, along with U.S. Sen. Angus King and historian Earle Shettleworth Jr. will take a look at Maine's economy through the eyes of Joshua Chamberlain at the Oct. 15 special MEREDA fall conference.

The Maine Real Estate and Development Association spring conference, now a special fall conference presented virtually, will address the daunting task of repairing the economy amidst a pandemic, while giving a bicentennial nod to the Maine spirit that's gotten the state through tough times in the past.

The twice rescheduled spring conference, "The Chamberlain Model: Back to the Future," channels Maine's Civil War hero and four-time governor, Joshua Chamberlain. It will be from 8 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Oct. 15.

It not only ties the state's history to today's ecomony — the original pre-pandemic intent when it was originally scheduled for May — but also take a look at what Maine can expect in the future.

Speakers who will make the Chamberlain-pandemic economic connection, mapping 2020 through Chamberlaine's words and vision, will be U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine; Glenn Cummings, president of the University of Southern Maine; and historian Earle G. Shettleworth Jr.

"Chamberlain laid the groundwork for Maine’s future" with the speech, MEREDA said in a news release. "His vision resonates in today's pandemic economy and provides stepping stones for all of us as we work to create Maine’s future."

The trio will outline and explain Chamberlain’s model for the Maine economy, including the risks and rewards of Chamberlain’s economic outline, and start to chart the course for Maine’s next 200 years of economy.

The program will also include update from former Maine state economist Charles Colgan, who created the MEREDA Index. who will review the the new pandemic-era index and provide a picture of what the state is facing economically.

Kim Hamilton, CEO FocusMaine, will outline how three globally competitive and high-growth fields are bringing new opportunity to Maine and Mainers. A panel will follow, with Scott Wellman, CFO of Puritan Labs; Amber Lambke, founder and CEO of Maine Grains; Seth Webber, principal at Berry Dunn; and Briana Warner, president and CEO of Atlantic Sea Farms. The panel will be moderated by Andrea Cianchette Maker of Pierce Atwood.

'Brighter days are in store'

Since they'll boil it down, that means that you won't have to read Chamberlain's lengthy, history-rich and exhaustively detailed speech commemorating the country's centennial, in 1876. In short, he lauded Maine's pioneer spirit, natural resources and willingness to work hard, but also pressed Mainers to diversify industry and seek capital in order to support economic growth.

"Brighter days are in store for Maine," Chamberlain said in the speech. "Slowly, as ignorance is dispelled and prejudice overcome, and interest appears, men are turning towards Maine."

His most stirring words come at the end, and are an indication that the things that gave him such hope for Maine in 1876 are still those intangibles that are among Maine's greatest assets today.

Celebrating Maine's mountains, woods, rivers and coastline, he said, "Thought comes here and dwells. The wearied with work come here to worship. Homes of wealth arise and scorn not lumber ones, but give a helping hand to honest and homely toil. This will knit hearts together anew, and they will love the land, and the land will give back strength. For mountains and rivers and sea — emblems of freedom and power — are more than emblems. They hold a people to their thought, and so, make them strong."

He ends with the declaration that Maine "will be an empire where no despot either of politics or traffic shall make merchandise of souls, but where man, in making himself master, makes all men free."

Much as Chamberlain looked back and ahead in 1876, MEREDA says, ultimately, the goal is to redefine Maine’s economic drivers.

"The 200 year anniversary brings a moment of pause and reflection," the organization said in an email. "Who are we now?  Where have we been? Most importantly, where are we going and what can we do to make it the best possible outcome.  We want to harness as much of our momentum as we plan for the future."

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