WATERVILLE — Speaking before a crowd of several dozen at the conclusion of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business to Business Showcase, Gov. Paul LePage addressed the chamber for the final time as governor, joking that his wife was currently looking for their retirement home in Florida.

“I think it’s assisted living,” he joked to the crowd.

LePage, a former Waterville politician himself, spoke of the importance of the regional effort he saw happening in central Maine that ultimately would help propel the state forward. He said it had been an “honor and privilege” to have been governor of Maine.

“It’s thrilling to come back to a progressive, aggressive city,” he said of Waterville, congratulating the people in the room.

The showcase, which ran from noon to 6 p.m. at the Colby College Field House, brought more than 140 exhibitors and more than 2,000 people to the college, where those in attendance could find out about job opportunities and network with potential employers. In addition to networking opportunities, food and drinks were available, those attending got to play games and participate in raffles, and a mascot played mini-golf with children.

This is the sixth year the chamber has hosted the event at Colby, and the 12th year it has hosted such a showcase, according to marketing director Brittnae DeRoche. Of the 140 businesses that participated in the showcase, she said, nearly 50 were hiring, so the event served as a good opportunity for job hunters to meet potential employers. Businesses seeking workers were marked with green balloons. All the businesses, ranging from nonprofit organizations to local restaurants, are members of the chamber.

Theevents tend to average about 2,000 people coming through the doors to network, DeRoche said.

LePage, who earlier in the day had spoken at the Togus medical center in Chelsea at an observance marking a half century since the Vietnam War, also drew a raffle winner. Tickets for the $1,000 prize were sold by the Mix Maine Media booth. LePage joked that the booth wouldn’t sell him a ticket, so he had to steal one.

Touching again on regional effort, LePage praised cities and towns such as Waterville, Oakland, Winslow and Fairfield for what they’ve done for the area and what they’ve done to move the state forward.

“It has to start somewhere,” he said.

LePage also praised local organizations for helping homeless, disabled and out-of-work residents get back to work.

“You’re ahead of so many communities in the state,” he said.

Garvan Donegan, an economic development specialist for the Central Maine Growth Council, a public-private collaborative group based in Waterville, said events such as the showcase are an excellent opportunity for networking, making yourself visible and finding partnership opportunities. While the Growth Council does contribute to the event, he said, all the praise belongs to the chamber for organizing the event.

“How many opportunities are there to get this many businesses in one room?” Donegan said.

He said the event was “very unique” and a great benefit for Waterville as it continues making moves to revitalize itself, namely with Colby’s massive contributions to the downtown.

“It’s great it’s being held in Waterville,” Donegan said.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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