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Profiles: Laurie LaChance '83

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Laurie LaChance '83
President and CEO, Maine Development Foundation

Hometown: Dover-Foxcroft, Maine

Bowdoin ties: Oldest son, Michael, is now a student at Bowdoin, Class of 2013, and several members of Bowdoin's administrative team have been through MDF’s Leadership Maine program.

Website: www.mdf.org

Greatest influence or source of inspiration: Definitely Sebec Lake (my hometown)

First thing in the morning: Coffee. Always coffee. Then Cheerios.

The best meal you’ve ever eaten: That's easy, though I don’t even remember exactly what food it was. We didn't have a lot of money growing up but my parents were the masters of having simple pleasures. Each summer, we would travel the back roads from Dover-Foxcroft to the summer theater at Lakewood (outside of Skowhegan) to see a musical. As we traveled back home near midnight, my father would pull into a rest area on the side of the road, shine the lights on the picnic table, and we'd all have a picnic that my mother had made. My mother could make a picnic taste like a feast!

Favorite book: The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander

Favorite Bowdoin memory: Hard to pick just one, as I have so very many great memories—particularly with the Bowdoin Swing Band and playing basketball—but I guess I'd pick Academy Awards Night of my junior year. Two of my best friends and I had done a remake of The Sound of Music and it had gotten nominated for best comedy. We ended up losing to a film about a keg being thrown around the Bowdoin campus. Go figure! But the awards were followed by a dance where the Swing Band played, so all was good!

On Bowdoin and Maine: I grew up in Dover-Foxcroft and, with the exception of visiting family in southern New England, exploring our French-Canadian heritage in Quebec, and a summer in Austria as an AFS student, our only travel was around Maine—visiting the state parks, museums, and Acadia. My time at Bowdoin gave me a much broader insight into other parts of the U.S., and made me really appreciate how special Maine is. My time at Bowdoin really opened my eyes to so many things. It also gave me a much greater appreciation for how much I love this state. I found that the networks of Bowdoin graduates are just tremendous—very willing, very supportive, always ready to help. It's helped me to do things that I don’t think I ever would have been able to do. And it's so exciting to have my son there. His friends and roommates are from all over the world. The sky's the limit at Bowdoin. It's really wonderful to see that in Maine—it's a phenomenal asset for the state.

On her role at MDF: As the president I oversee everything, particularly the fundraising and more importantly the program development and trying to procure new programs and new undertakings. The organization's been in existence for 32 years and it's very well-respected. We're able to take on quite a bit. In our Leadership Maine program, established community leaders from across the state come and we take them everywhere: they might meet with a tribe, they might meet with migrant workers. They learn all about the economic issues of Maine.

We also work with the legislature and take [legislators] on economic bus tours of Maine; we take them all around the state to help enrich their policy-making but letting them see what they're making laws about. They actually ride the roads that they're determining policies for. That's very rewarding. Many legislators have never been north of Augusta and they don't understand the full implications of what it's like to live in these rural areas. There's some phenomenal things going on—a lot of innovation, work with natural resources. It's just fascinating, all the work that's going on in the state, that they wouldn't have known if they hadn't gone there. They have a much greater understanding of what the issues are.

My whole professional life has been as an economist in Maine. The very best part about Maine is its scale; we're small enough and all the people are open enough that you can work together in ways that you never could do in a larger state. Because we're small,  we have access to leaders, the government is very open, business leaders are very engaged. And Bowdoin connections are always a huge help. Alums are always opening their doors. You can always reach out to them.

Goals: The most difficult thing has been relaying to people the economic realities about policies and challenges, but doing it in a way that makes people hopeful that they can do something to change it. The numbers can be depressing. That’s the greatest challenge. The whole goal of Leadership Maine is based on this belief that if you pull together Maine leaders and you ground them in a similar experience, that together this group can completely change the future of the state. As long as we keep building that, the energy and the movement forward will take their own paths. The way Maine is going to get to prosperity is by trying to increase the education and the skill of every single Maine person and bringing them to their highest potential.

Posted August 12, 2010