February 19, 2018
On the record

CEO outlines Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce's 2018 goals

Photo / Fred J. Field
Photo / Fred J. Field
Katie Doherty, president and CEO of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, says the region is 'in the midst of a major revitalization.'

Katie Doherty, 29, a Waterville native, became program director for the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce in 2015 and was named president and CEO in February 2017, replacing Ross Cunningham.

Doherty said at the time her goal was to reach new audiences, including younger members. Mainebiz had a chance to sit down with her recently for an update.

Mainebiz: The KV chamber draws 900 people to its annual awards on a January night. What is it about the region that makes the organization so vital?

Katie Doherty: Our region is made of 23 relatively small communities. The Kennebec Valley Chamber acts as a connector for all of the businesses in the region, as well as for the residents. We help bring businesses together through our networking and informational events, and we help the community come together through our community events, like the Whatever Family Festival. Having those connections with other businesses and community members is what makes the region such a great place to live, work and play. Our mission is to enhance life quality by strengthening our regional economy.

MB: A year into the job, have you made headway with your initial goals, and what are your immediate and long-term goals?

KD: We are helping our members and visitors to the area know what is going on in the Kennebec Valley through social media, our annual visitor's guide and our website, sharing our calendar and events. People are able to tailor their choices to help narrow their search and find events that pique their interest. We made a huge change with the Whatever Festival this year, transforming it from 'Kids Day in Capitol Park' to 'Kennebec River Day at Mill Park.'[Now] the event takes place right along the Kennebec River. The river helps tie some of the communities we serve together. The changes not only created a great atmosphere, but allowed us to expand the activities to all ages, [including] food trucks, craft vendors, river events and three performer stages.

Goals for 2018 are focused on creating synergy between business and education to help strengthen workforce dynamics and promote collaborative opportunities [among] community organizations. Of our three-year goals, the major one is to serve as facilitator for development of a strategic plan for the region and to create a process to attract, retain and engage young Maine professionals.

MB: What is the chamber doing to attract younger members?

KD: The chamber's young professional group, Cynergy, has a vital role in helping young professionals get more involved in the chamber. They do activities from professional development, informational panels, to fun things like bowling tournaments, dodgeball leagues and trivia nights.

We have changed some of our programs this year to be more attractive to professionals of all ages and levels. We have always offered a business breakfast once a month, but this year we are changing it to a new series, Chamber Connection. It's on a monthly rotating schedule of breakfast, lunch and a late afternoon session with hors d'oeurves. This gives more options to professionals who might not have much flexibility in the workplace, or to members who have a family at home and can't always do the early mornings.

MB: You are a native of central Maine — what would you tell someone who may not know about what makes the Kennebec Valley a good place to live and do business?

KD: Growing up in central Maine and only ever working in Augusta has made me feel like a part of a community. We have some amazing things going on in the Kennebec Valley, and once someone comes here to visit they are hooked. I would tell people to come do a day here and see all we have to offer, with our restaurants, lakes, Kennebec River, breweries, art and music and also all the great things that being the state capital has to offer. The region is in the midst of a major revitalization and there are numerous opportunities for business growth, housing developments, new restaurants, retail and more, making it a great place to grow with both personally and professionally.


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