By Jeff Amaro, LNH Class of 2016
Day-one began with insights provided by Jim Tibbetts, Board of Directors, Granite Bank and Joe Short, Vice President, Northern Forest Centers. Both enlightened us with a view into the history of the region and the “Why” behind many economic challenges facing the North Country. Joe was particularly keen to point out that despite the challenges,stemming from the gradual decline of the paper mill-based economy and land-use changes; there are also many “points of light”. As we would personally experience later in the day, opportunity and hope resides in the regions greatest natural resource: The People. With strong pride in place and purpose, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a commitment to balance economic development with preservation of vast environmental resources – opportunities for growth and change abound!
Many of these ‘points of light’became self-evident during the diverse activities and tours we embarked on in the afternoon. Two notable examples included the growing ATV tourism businesses that are broadening year-round recreation and local job opportunities,while another, WREN (Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network), provides a unique downtown space for innovative skills training and “income patching” opportunities to all residents. Although completely different in purpose,each of these embodies the essence of North Country innovation, and how the region is actively turning many challenges of the past 50 years,into advantages for the 21st century.
Our final session day, set in picturesque Crawford Notch, became a day of both reflection and visioning with Steve’s opening challenge for us to address, “What kind of state do we want?”
A number of themes quickly emerged related to improving our workforce, encouraging local cooperation in the face of parochialism, and balancing profitable business growth with the social good (examples of success in this area included The Grappone Auto Group, Smuttynose Brewing and Timberland). However, before substantive progress can be made, we broadly agreed that improving the level of civility in public discourse is a foundational component, and further, represents a significant opportunity for our class to lead by example.
As LNH Alumni,we are now uniquely qualified to not only‘lead the conversation’ on many important issues, but also set the ‘tone’ for those conversations. This tone,reflecting mutual respect, competence in understanding, a spirit of compromise and composed resilience in the face of strong feelings,has been a critical success factor for our LNH year and provides a standard to emulate.It also reminds me of a quote by Tony Dungy, who said, “You can't always control circumstances. However, you can always control your attitude, approach, and response. Your options are to complain or to look ahead and figure out how to make the situation better.”
In other words, we need to represent the change we want to see. As LNH Alumni, it also effectively summarizes our responsibility going forward.