Garvan Donegan is most proud of working with the team that brought Collaborative Consulting to Waterville, but he’s also proud of bringing family-owned Emery’s Meat and Produce into the area.
“We work with some very large projects, but we do not lose sight of the critically important family businesses,” he said in an interview Thursday.
Donegan, 31, is the senior economic development specialist at the Central Maine Growth Council, a nonprofit that essentially serves as the economic development department for Waterville, Winslow and Fairfield.
The council works with about 70 investors and businesses, ranging from hospitals to colleges to mom-and-pop shops, Donegan said. Since June 2015, he has focused on economic development for the council.
Donegan said what’s happening in Waterville now is “extraordinarily exciting.”
His vision for the city, he said, involves a transition from post-industrial manufacturing town to a thriving college city that’s a hub for technology.
After two years of working toward that goal, Donegan will receive the Rising Star Award from the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce at its April 27 award ceremony.
The award recognizes a chamber member under 40 for his or her contributions to the community and leadership.
“I would say that Garvan is a tireless advocate for our region,” said Kim Lindlof, executive director of the council and president and CEO of the chamber. “He’ll go the extra mile to assist businesses in moving to, starting up or growing in the mid-Maine region.”
Lindlof added that Donegan “epitomizes what’s best in the millennial generation.”
Donegan, though, said he wasn’t expecting to win.
“I was surprised, but … I wasn’t surprised for the acknowledgment of the good work we’re doing,” he said. He sees the award as a reflection on the team he works with and its effect in the region, he said.
Chris Gaunce, owner of Central Maine Motors and chairman of the council’s board, works closely with Donegan. He described Donegan as a “consummate professional.”
“He’s a credit to the economic development world,” Gaunce said, adding, “He is our ‘solutionist’ to economic challenges.”
Gaunce used the example of when Donegan helped bring Collaborative Consulting to Waterville.
He put together information on housing, the workforce and employment for the company, and stretched the council’s “comfort zone” for defining those metrics so it could draw in businesses more easily, Gaunce said.
“He’s a true asset to our community and really someone to respect,” he said.
Donegan said he was attracted to his job by its variety and public service component. After studying political science and environmental sciences at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Cape Elizabeth native returned to Maine, where he completed a master’s degree in community planning and development at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine.
Donegan always had planned to come back to Maine, he said. The job in central Maine gave him an opportunity to “work in a region with great assets that I could effect change in through a public service lens.”
“I’ve always had a real deep belief and commitment to public service,” he said, adding that he takes his responsibility to add jobs and tax revenue to the community seriously.
Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239