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Young professionals panel highlights AP annual event

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Having a solid foundation may be one of the keys to attracting and retaining younger people in Aroostook County. That was one takeaway from a young professionals’ panel discussion at the Aroostook Partnership (AP) Annual Meeting Thursday, Nov. 16 at Northern Maine Community College.

The panel, comprised of Chelsea Henderson of FA Peabody Co., Jacob Buck of The Maine Malt House, Katie Zarrilli of WAGM-TV, Carter Vaillancourt of Daigle Oil Company and Kasey Soucy of Cary Medical Center, relayed a familiar theme. Having a family as a foundation or making a foundation of good friends and becoming part of the community is essential for attraction and retention.

Chris Anderson, outgoing Chairman of the Aroostook Partnership, welcomes the crowd of about 60 to the Nov. 16 annual meeting in Presque Isle. (Courtesy of Aroostook Partnership)

Matt McHatten of MMG Insurance moderated the panel and said the reason to hear from the group of young professionals was clear.

“Given the major issue of our aging workforce in Aroostook County, a primary initiative of the Aroostook Partnership is attracting and retaining youth to fill the many openings forthcoming regardless of industry sector,” he said. “If we are truly going to attack this issue, we need both the perspective and engagement of the next generation to assist in building strategies. This dialogue was the first step in many more needed to identify issues and solutions.”

Buck said he was excited to participate in the discussion and hopes it leads to solutions to the issues facing Aroostook County.

“I am sure the audience is quite familiar with the issues as we see them, but I think that it is great to be able to explain our point of view,” he added. “It is our generation that we are trying to attract and bring here to Aroostook and Millennials have different views on work, life, culture, etc. If nothing else, I hope that this will be the start of the effort combining both millennials, baby boomers and everyone in between, to help solve the issues at hand and change the economy and dynamic of our area.”

“I would hope the audience was able to take away the fact that there are youth in Aroostook County that are passionate about the area and truly want to be here,” added Vaillancourt. “The five of us there today were a small representation of that. In addition to that, I hope they can see that growth is on our minds as potential ‘future leaders’ and how we need to work together to make this a place where other youth will want to call home.”

In addition to the panel discussion, the 60 attendees heard a brief overview of partnership activity in the past year.

AP President and CEO Bob Dorsey said the region faces challenges, but can make progress by working together.

It’s very clear that the partnership, in collaboration with Aroostook leaders and other regional agencies, has made an enormous difference over the 14 years we’ve been in operation,” he said. “In that period, we’ve seen greater than $3-billion in investment in our region, created or saved more than 2,400 jobs and have retained around 4,000 more in total population as a result.”

Dorsey also detailed current investment and new jobs, which the partnership tracks anecdotally each year. He said so far in 2017 there has been about $160 million in investment in Aroostook County, resulting in 243 new jobs.

At the meeting, members elected a new slate of officers for the upcoming year. Jason House of TD Bank will serve as the chairman, McHatten as vice chair, Robert Clark of Northern Maine Development Commission as public vice chair, Gina LeBlanc-Eggert of Emera Maine as secretary and Jennifer Buckingham of Tempo as treasurer.

Dorsey thanked investors, the board and outgoing Chair Chris Anderson of FA Peabody for his commitment, two-year chairmanship and dedication to the Partnership over the past 14 years.

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