Sebago Summit Trade Show: A peak experience

 Casco Town Manager Dave Morton stands next to a poster promoting the Casco Public Library. On Tuesday, the Town of Casco staff and selectmen manned an informational booth at the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce’s Sebago Summit Trade Show held at Saint Joseph’s College. (De Busk Photo)

Casco Town Manager Dave Morton stands next to a poster promoting the Casco Public Library. On Tuesday, the Town of Casco staff and selectmen manned an informational booth at the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce’s Sebago Summit Trade Show held at Saint Joseph’s College. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

STANDISH — Danielle Loring, the code enforcement administrative assistant for the Town of Raymond, knew that on Tuesday she was going to put in a long day on her feet.

So, she donned her athletic shoes: silver and gray with hot pink laces.

“I knew I was going to be on my feet for eight hours today,” she said, of her executive decision to skip the high heels and pair more comfortable shoes with her black slacks and a stylish floral shirt.

Loring was among those Raymond town employees who manned an informational booth at the Sebago Summit Trade Show, which was coordinated by Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.

Then, later that evening — keeping with the topic of the day, Loring facilitated the first meeting of the Raymond Economic Development Task Force.

Tuesday’s business summit, which was held at Saint Joseph’s College, offered a chance to network. More than forty businesses were represented at the trade show as well as the towns of Raymond, Casco, Naples, Standish, Windham, Gray and New Gloucester.

“It was a diverse group of people,” Loring said.

“I met people who are successful in their positions and learned why and how I could model something similar in Raymond,” she said.

“I spoke with some people in the medical profession. I learned about ways to entice medical practices to Raymond,” she said, adding there are vacant buildings that would be suitable for that type of business.

“It is all about finding the right mix for Raymond, balancing residential and community needs with future businesses,” she said.

“I am enthusiastic and excited” to be part of the Economic Development Task Force, which has been given by Raymond selectmen a six-month timeline to come up with a concrete plan.

Already, Loring has established some of the groundwork, by compiling paperwork that maps out the commercial and industrial zones in Raymond as well as steps potential businesses must take to set up shop in that town.

Bringing in new businesses “will help to broaden our tax base” and ease the burden for existing entrepreneurs, she said.

The seven-member task force will address both business retention and potential expansion of businesses, she said.

Assistance with Raymond’s recent endeavor will come from Caroline Paras, the economic and community planner with Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG).

Although networking often leads to successful partnerships, Loring said she also enjoyed hearing the success stories from the summit’s speakers throughout the day.

“Bill Diamond grew up in poverty, overcame that, and got where he is today,” she said, adding she was surprised to learn those details.

Casco Town Manager Dave Morton said the real eye-opener for him was discovering what was most prohibitive to businesses hoping to locate in Casco.

Morton said he talked with business people about valuable efforts the town could make to bring in businesses.

“A lot of the comments came to back to permitting. Not the regulations as I had thought, but the three or four months it takes to go through the business permit process. The best thing we could do to make it more business-friendly is to streamline the process,” he said, stressing that did not mean eliminating the requirements, only expediting the permit process.

In addition to the length of time and the process for permitting, businesses did not like the uncertainty of whether or not their business would be allowed. That uncertainty was made worse when new board members were seated during the business permit process, he said.

The business people Morton talked to said they would prefer to know up front what they needed to do, and to be provided with a shorter timeline for required permits.

“That was interesting,” he said.

“I made connections with a few businesses that had relocated. It was good to make those connections again,” Morton said.

Also, the Town of Casco had a chance to test out its new promotional brochure, which was designed by Selectman Tracy Kimball with constructive input from Chairman Mary-Vienessa Fernandes. Sharkey Graphic Solutions did the print job for the material, Morton said.

Three selectmen and the town’s code enforcement officer attended the summit.

“I think we all took away something different from this event. We all had an opportunity to go around and talk with different folks. We saw the materials other towns were displaying,” Morton said.

Selectman Grant Plummer said, “Town-wise, it was interesting to talk to other communities” that had booths at the show. The Town of Casco’s booth was sandwiched between Raymond and New Gloucester.

“Having that overlap space was nice; and gave us a chance to learn from each other,” Plummer said.

“It looked like other communities had done shows before. Certainly, there was a learning curve on how to present ourselves as a town,” he said.

“I had some interesting conversations about mapping software” that might be helpful for Casco, Plummer said.

“Everyone (in attendance) was ready to help each other through the trials and tribulations of this economy,” he said.

“Saint Joe’s College: What a fantastic facility to have in our region. It was beautiful,” Plummer said.

Another trade show attendee, Bob Caron II, set up a booth for Naples Golf and Country Club, where he has worked as general manager for the past decade.

Caron said he listened to the presentation, “Think Like a Black Belt,” which was delivered by businessman Jim Bouchard.

“For me, the biggest message that Mr. Bouchard spoke about just reaffirmed what I already know and try to practice,” Caron said.

“The importance of believing in your product when selling your product,” he said.

“His speech was more motivational. He also talked about ways to make your employees feel better about themselves,” he said.

Throughout the day, Caron and co-worker Ellen Dore, head chef and food and beverage manager at Naples Golf Course, took the opportunity to interact with other business people.

The networking aspect was great, and provided a chance to learn what other area businesses have to offer, he said.

“The concept of a trade show is spectacular,” he said.

“But, there could be a better way to bring the public in,” he said.

The feedback he conveyed was that while the chamber of commerce did an excellent job of contacting its members about the event, the chamber could explore ways to inform the general public about future trade shows.

However, the venue — St. Joe’s college campus — is top-notch, he said.

“Where else is there a facility like this one?”

Casco’s Morton agreed.

“Saint Joe’s college is a wonderful facility. We are lucky to have it in the area. And, it is good that they open it up to public events like this one,” he said.

 

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