BANGOR — The annual dinner of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday night seemed a bit like a celebration of survival. Cocktail hour discussion centered on how long everyone had lived without power.
But with electricity well in hand, more than 500 local businesspeople quickly settled in at the Bangor Civic Center for a dinner of chicken or stir fry, to listen to Sen. Susan Collins, and to honor Leonard E. Minsky for his contribution to the community.
Collins touted the spirit that helped Mainers cope with the recent ice storm. She told of an elderly, wheelchair-bound stroke victim at a shelter who asked Collins to help her reach into her pocketbook for a $2 donation to the American Red Cross.
The senator also took the opportunity to tell constituents her plans for the coming year in Washington. She listed several priorities, including help for small businesses, transportation, health care and education.
Collins said Maine was one of only three states without an east-west highway. She said she hopes to bring sufficient funds to the state to begin the planning for such a highway. Calais, she said, is the seventh-busiest port of entry between the United States and Canada, but no direct route links it to the rest of the country.
Collins was well received by the business community, but the evening belonged to Minsky, the senator’s neighbor and longtime president, now retired, of Superior Paper Products. He was honored as a philanthropist, community activist and business leader, including a stint as president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.
Frederick Hutchinson, retired president of the University of Maine, lauded Minsky as passionate, generous and an able leader. A Maine graduate and active alumnus, Minsky’s philanthropic ventures include the Minsky Recital Hall and the Minsky Gallery, both on the Orono campus.
Minsky, who now says he is “gainfully unemployed,” was appreciative when formally presented the Norbert X. Dowd Award. Dowd was a longtime head of the local Chamber.
According to Minsky, his early community endeavors in Bangor were undertaken at the behest of Norbert Dowd. “That makes this award special,” he said.
The annual Chamber dinner signals the start of a new year and new leadership for the 950-member organization. Outgoing president John Rohman of WBRC Architects said the Chamber had strong membership, an active involvement in 21 area towns, and was a strong voice for the region.
The incoming president, Earl Black of Mark Stimson Town & Country Realtors, said he looked for a good year because, “people like to be involved in this Chamber.”
Black pledged to make it easier for operators of small businesses to take advantage of programs offered by the Chamber.