Effort to Build and Strengthen Workforce in Lewiston-Auburn Announced

LA Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and John T. Gorman Foundation commit to Strengthen LA, a plan to support continued business growth by aligning and investing in efforts to grow the local workforce

LA Metropolitation Chamber President (left) and John T. Gorman Foundation Chief Program Officer Nicole Witherbee.

LEWISTON, MAINE – Announced January 23, 2020, at the LA Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Awards Dinner, the Chamber and John T. Gorman Foundation are partnering for the launch of Strengthen LA, a comprehensive strategy to help grow and strengthen the region’s local workforce. The Chamber has already committed $10,000 in funds and donations – and, for every dollar raised for Strengthen LA, the John T. Gorman Foundation has pledged a matching investment of up to $150,000.

The Chamber has long convened its own Workforce Development and Education Committee, a table comprised of education, employment, non-profit businesses and municipal partners aimed at building awareness of workforce opportunities. Likewise, the Portland-based Foundation has invested heavily in efforts to improve the health, education, and economic stability of Lewiston families– including support for workforce training in key industries. Both the Chamber and the Foundation are cognizant of the many existing resources already in place that prepare people to join or rejoin the workforce and to help workers get the education and specialized skills they need to take advantage of new job opportunities. Strengthen LA is an idea, a plan for a strategy to connect, communicate and align all existing efforts and resources.

At the Annual Awards Dinner, LA Metro President and CEO Shanna Cox called on businesses and community members to join them in the collaborative effort: “Employers are making tough decisions about whether or not to expand based on their ability to attract talent and fill existing vacancies—affecting their bottom line and our ability to continue to grow and develop as a region. Until today, many of the great efforts to address the issue have occurred on parallel tracks, each aiming in the same direction, but not yet realizing the impact possible when we align our collective efforts. What’s needed is a comprehensive strategy to bring all these resources together, align them in a common direction, and fill gaps where needed. Such a strategy is taking shape in Strengthen LA.”

While still being developed, the critical strategies of Strengthen LA include:

  • Training and education structured to support critical industries like building trades and health care.
  • A five-tiered structure so workers can receive resources appropriate to their education and skill level, with a clear path of advancement from placement in entry-level jobs to advanced skilled occupations.
  • Work readiness skills for all tiers—teamwork, critical thinking, time management, problem solving—as well as coaching, job placement, retention supports, and next-stage career planning.
  • Connecting participants to work and family supports, including transportation and child care.
  • Serving those who are not in the workforce as well as current workers looking to advance in their careers.

“For the past several years, we have been proud partners with many organizations working together to improve the day-to-day lives of LA residents,” said John T. Gorman Foundation Chief Program Officer Nicole Witherbee. “But the enormity of that collective vision requires that we all do more. It calls for greater scale, sharper strategies, stronger partnerships, more resources, and the ability to align all of those things in every aspect of the work. We believe that Strengthen LA is exactly what is needed to make that vision a reality.”

Still in its initial phase of development, this strategy will be only be successful with the input of local businesses, residents, and other partners.


The John T. Gorman Foundation is a private foundation based in Portland, Maine, that aims to advance and invest in innovative ideas and opportunities that improve the lives of Maine’s most vulnerable people.


An organization of community-minded businesses that serves Lewiston, Auburn, and surrounding communities, the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce is an engine for economic vitality and enhanced quality of life. Through issues advocacy, workforce development, and professional networking, the LA Metro Chamber helps business and community build, lead, and thrive. (

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