Employees ‘win career lottery’ at office of the future conference in Portland

MEREDA welcomed Texas-based experts to discuss marriage of space and technology

75 percent of employees, nationally, are not happy with the place they go to work, according to the research and design firm Gensler. Dean Strombom and Sven Govaars of Gensler traveled from Houston, TX to Portland to serve as keynotes at last week’s Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) conference. The event, meant to discuss “the office of the future,” included robust conversation about how place and technology work together, with real-world examples from Maine.

The good news, according to Strombom and Govaars, is that 30 percent of employees feel engaged and enjoy their work. That said, 18 percent of U.S. employees are unhappy, disengaged and undermine what their engaged colleagues accomplish, and 52 percent are disengaged (just show up, do their job and go home). The focus of the event was how to get that 52 percent engaged, and to discuss the reverberations for commercial real estate, the spaces we build, own, and lease and how the Maine market is changing as a result.

Case in point, the New England-based Creative Office Pavilion was on-hand and set up a sample office, featuring benches (instead of chairs) and a large communal table under a pergola. “This arrangement affords employees in an office to collaborate in a casual setting,” said Bruce Jones, the company’s director of business development and a MEREDA board member. “Some of the best collaborations happen when folks are comfortable and able to share ideas with one another.”

Attendees at the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) conference test out the "office of the future" set up by Creative Office Pavilion to augment the conversation about the same topic, keynoted by two renowned architects from the design firm Gensler who traveled from Texas to speak at the event.

Attendees at the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) conference test out the “office of the future” set up by Creative Office Pavilion to augment the conversation about the same topic, keynoted by two renowned architects from the design firm Gensler who traveled from Texas to speak at the event.

The conversation was augmented by a panel of executives from three Maine companies that have embraced the tremendous business opportunity that comes with providing choice to today’s enlightened worker.

One of those executives, Kathy Shafer, IDEXX’s senior director of worldwide facilities, said that employees at IDEXX can choose whether or not to have a fixed or mobile office, and that many are choosing the mobile. She said that a large part of what makes this work is a paperless environment with wireless printing and other technologies, such as Skype chats and meeting spaces equipped with flat screen TVs. Shafer also noted their wellness center with fitness classes and a health clinic run by Intermed, four dining centers across the campus, and opportunities for on-site gardening, cooking and dancing, which “combine to foster mental and physical health as an important aspect of work.”

“We used much of that same toolkit,” said Paul Larkins, director of corporate planning and construction at Unum Group. Like Shafer, Larkins noted that “teams define their own spaces” at his company. In fact, he said that only 63 percent of employees are in the office daily and that they “rely on engaged employees to stay on top of the trends and opportunities.”

“Colorful, clean, engaging space means a lot,” said Brett Austin, president of Kepware. “Real estate is our primary driver to ensure that employees feel they ‘win the career lottery.’ It’s a continuing conversation: we always try to help people live their lives while keeping them highly engaged. And, in fact, in 2015, 98% of our employees were ‘highly engaged.’ This has made Kepware a lot of money.”

“Companies no longer have to undertake a massive expansion when they are adding new employees,” said Brian Curley, MEREDA board member and president of PDT Architects. “Instead, companies can be creative in terms of reducing the amount of square footage needed for each employee and, instead, add amenities and features that keep employees engaged.”

“The conversation offered great lessons for developers and builders here in Maine,” said Michael O’Reilly, MEREDA president and senior VP at Bangor Savings Bank. “As more companies look to expand to Maine, where real estate is more affordable than other locales, and as we see increased development in the commercial real estate space, it’s important that we, as an industry, stay on top of these trends, which help improve employee engagement, performance and well-being, with benefits for companies’ bottom lines.”

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Maine Real Estate & Development Association Awards Top 6 Notable Projects of 2015

Projects from York County to Dover-Foxcroft Received Special Recognition at MEREDA’s 2016 Annual Spring Conference

The Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA), the state’s leading organization for commercial real estate professionals, has announced the recipients of its 2015 Notable Projects Awards at its annual Spring Conference in Portland on May 17.

“MEREDA is thrilled to recognize these exemplary projects, all of which not only embody MEREDA’s belief in responsible real estate but also involved a significant investment of resources and job creation statewide,” noted Michael O’Reilly, President, MEREDA Board of Directors and Senior Vice President, Southern Maine Commercial Banking Team Lead, at Bangor Savings Bank.

Each of the selected six projects were selected for recognition based upon criteria including environmental sustainability, economic impact, energy efficiency, social impact and job creation.

The recipients of MEREDA’s Top 6 Most Notable Projects of 2015 included:

  • In Bangor, the Circular Block Building: Robert Perry Builders;
  • In Augusta, the Capital Judicial Center: Maine Judicial Branch;
  • In Portland, the Press Hotel: Brady Enterprises;
  • In Dover-Foxcroft, The Mill at Dover-Foxcroft: Arnold Development Group;
  • In Portland, West End Place: LWS Investments and Redfern Properties; and
  • In Biddeford, Pepperell Mill Campus: Doug Sanford

For more information about each of these impressive projects, please click here.

Notable Project Winners

Left to Right: MEREDA President, Michael O’Reilly accepting the 2015 Notable Project Award for The Press Hotel, Doug Sanford for Pepperell Mill Campus, Telford Allen & Bob Perry for the Circular Block Building, Paul Peck for West End Place, Alan Kuniholm for the Capital Judicial Center, and Christian Arnold for The Mill at Dover-Foxcroft.

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Historic Masonry Reborn – “The care of historic brick and stone buildings in Maine”

By Stephen D. Jones, Building Envelope Specialists Inc.

The restoration and repair of historic masonry buildings can be challenging.   Owners who are using Historic Tax Credits to help finance their project are required to meet the standards of the Department of the Interior.

Masonry buildings are inherently difficult to repair.  Deterioration of the masonry assembly is often underappreciated, resulting in escalating repair costs.

On April 5th, MEREDA hosted a presentation by Building Envelope Specialists, Inc., WBRC Architects and Engineers and the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.  As a group, these professionals reviewed and explained the important considerations of repairing a historic masonry building while honoring the historic restoration standards.

Historic Masonry Construction:

Historic masonry construction commonly consists of clay brick, stone and precast concrete units.  The exterior walls are normally load baring.  Mortar joints not only hold the masonry units in place, they also accommodate for expansion and contraction, and act as a moisture weep system.  Repairing these buildings can be costly depending on existing conditions.  Long lasting repairs occur if the building condition is properly assessed and appropriate repair details are applied.

Often building owners are under the misconception that masonry buildings last forever with little or no deterioration over the years.  The reality is that moisture from rain and snow easily penetrates masonry assemblies and causes damage.  When functioning properly, mortar joints help weep out the moisture that penetrates the masonry assembly.  Deterioration of masonry assemblies is often accelerated when mortar joints are repaired using the incorrect mortar recipe.  Dense mortar will hold moisture in, much like a dam, causing accelerated deterioration. In an effort to stop moisture from penetrating, owners will sometimes use sealants on masonry walls.   Masonry sealants will also accelerate the deterioration process by holding in moisture.  This often results in clay bricks spalling.  Understanding how historic masonry assemblies are designed to perform will lead to cost effective and long lasting repairs.

Historic Tax Incentives:

Historic Tax Credits have been used throughout Maine to help the building owners afford costly building repairs.  Meeting the standards of the Department of the Interior is vital for credit eligibility.  Using a historic tax credit consultant can be helpful due to the complexity of the program.

Basic eligibility requirements for state & federal incentives include:

  • Building must be listed in the National Registry of Historic Places or be “certified” within 30 months of the date the tax credit is claimed.
  • Building must be used for an income producing purpose for at least 5 years after completion of the rehabilitation.
  • The project must meet the IRS substantial rehabilitation test – OR – Must incur certified, qualified rehabilitation expenditures of between $50,000.00 and $250,000.00.
  • The entire rehabilitation project must be done in accordance with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission’s or the National Park Service’s interpretation of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.

Historic Masonry Building Repair Approach:

A masonry assessment is the first step to defining the scope of repair.  Using the data collected, a masonry consultant can define the construction scope required to restore the building’s exterior shell.   Definition of scope along with detailed construction documents can be used to quantify the cost of repair.  The Maine Historic Preservation Commission will use the construction documents to guide the building owner on what is required to meet the historic standards of the Department of the Interior.

Assembling the Repair Team:

A comprehensive consulting team should include an architect, engineer, historic consultant and a masonry consultant.  Together, these professionals provide the capacity to generate a thorough plan that will result in long lasting repairs and will also secure tax credit eligibility.

For more information regarding the repair and restoration of historic masonry buildings contact Stephen Jones sjones@building-envelope-specialists.net or Scott Whitaker swhitaker@building-enelope-specialists.net, and Steven Pedersen, steve.pedersen@wbrcae.com at WBRC.

For more information regarding historic tax incentives, contact Mike Johnson of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission mike.d.johnson@maine.gov or visit their website athttp://www.state.me.us/mhpc/tax_incentives/index.html

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MEREDA’s Morning Menu Breakfast Event – Environmental Update: The Latest from the Trenches in Due Diligence and Changes at the Department of Environmental Protection

Breakfast Logo for Press Releases & Social MediaJoin the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) for breakfast on June 7, 2016 from 7:30 – 9:00 AM at the Clarion Hotel in Portland for an update on Due Diligence and Changes at the Department of Environmental Protection.

After several decades of living with environmental liabilities, most developers and brokers understand the road map through environmental issues, and the value of an environmental site assessment.

BUT — completing All Appropriate Inquiry, obtaining liability protections – AND getting the deal done in a timely and cost effective manner?  Is it possible?   It can be done, but only if you know the path forward, avoid the pitfalls, and execute the plan appropriately.  Come learn from the mistakes of others, so your transaction goes smoothly.

This breakfast seminar will focus on practical problem-solving strategies to keep deals on track and resolve environmental issues.  And the DEP VRAP is here to help. Really.

Whether you are:  buying, selling, or leasing property,  a potential owner, or potential lessee, a lender or bank,  a developer or municipal or county planner, or an environmental professional or brownfields specialist, you will not want to miss this breakfast briefing.

About our presenters:

Ken Gray environmental and products regulation attorney at Pierce Atwood LLP will be providing a review and update on Environmental Pre-Purchase “All Appropriate Inquiry,” recent legal developments, the EPA Tenant Liability Guidance, and recent Maine Voluntary Response Action Program issues.  Practicing law since 1979, Ken has worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and in private practice beginning in 1986.

Leslie Anderson is the Maine DEP Bureau Director for Remediation and Waste Management, and manages the state’s cleanup and VRAP programs.  She will describe recent changes in staffing, the VRAP program, and how the DEP is more efficiently handling contaminated property issues.  A lawyer by training, and former Director of Risk and Corporate Counsel, Leslie has varied experience in both the private and public sectors.

About the Event:

MEREDA’s Morning Menu Breakfast Event – Environmental Update:  The Latest from the Trenches in Due Diligence and Changes at the Department of Environmental Protection

7:30 – 9:00 AM

Clarion Hotel
1230 Congress Street
Portland, ME

Buffet Breakfast:  7:30 – 8:00 AM

Program:  8:00 – 9:00 AM

Registering for this Event:

Member: $45pp | Non-Member: $55pp
Prices increase by $10 after June 1st

Your RSVP is requested by June 1, 2016. Payment is expected at the time of registration. No refunds will be granted to anyone who registers, but fails to attend or who cancels after June 1st.

Visit www.mereda.org for more information and to register.

This MEREDA “Morning Menu” Breakfast Event is Sponsored by Norway Savings Bank.


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Lurking just below the surface of the Real Estate Recovery

by Josh Fifield, Account Executive at Clark Insurance


With all the positive energy and robust investment in Maine’s real estate markets, there is reason to be optimistic if not jubilant about your prospects for success as a developer, vendor or lender, etc. That’s all above the surface of the cyber world where black hat crackers, master hackers, firewall bombers, phishing engineers, and war-driving sleuths are plotting your demise or already are picking your pockets.   Their work has made headlines, forced Presidents of Fortune 500 companies to resign, and helped compromise hundreds of millions of records.    Your success is their opportunity.

We’re talking about cyber liability and cyber crime. Gratefully, they are often not successful but, like a flood or fire, it can devastate your business and most importantly your reputation.

In researching statistics for this article, one web site (sourced through a normal Google search) attempted to install malware on our computers – in less than a minute. Our new software defenses thwarted the attempt.

What are the top line risks as you project your bottom line? These are facts according to NetDiligence.com:

  1. The median cost per record to comply with notification regulations for a lost, identifiable data record is $13 but with an average cost of $964. Imagine discovering that you’ve lost 1,000 records. Without the right cyber liability coverage, you and your company are exposed to $13,000 to $964,000 of money straight off your bottom line.
  2. The median claim for cyber liability is $76,984 and the average cyber liability claim is $673,767
  3. Thirty-two percent of data breaches had insider involvement (NetDiligence.com)

Let’s focus again on what needs to be revealed to be considered identifiable information:

A name PLUS one of the following

  • Address
  • Email address
  • Financial information
  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s license
  • Medical record

If you possess any of this data (e.g. rental agreements, tenant information, copies of checks, deposit records, emails, etc.), you need to have strong loss control measures and procedures in place AND you need to be properly insured.

The cost centers of a cyber claim are notification compliance for each state from which a record originated, forensic investigation to determine the extent of a loss or breach, crisis management services to communicate to all who care about your breach, credit monitoring and legal services.

The other category to be mindful of is Cyber crime and Cyber deception where you experience an actual loss of money, intellectual property or other proprietary information.   Cyber deception also known as “social engineering” is when someone pretending to be you via dishonest misrepresentation, directs another within your organization to pay funds to third party under false pretenses.

To remain successful, it is in our best self-interest and the interest of others (tenants, partners, investors and employees) to help protect and defend them against cyber attacks and identity fraud.

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SAVE THE DATE: Office of the Future to be unveiled May 17

Spring Conf Save the Date.pngThe Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA), the trade association for commercial real estate in Maine, will host a half-day conference about the “Office of the Future” on Tue., May 17 in Portland.

“These so-called ‘new offices’, without cube-farms and, instead, conferencing and meeting spaces that look more like living rooms, offer positive impacts for companies,” said Bruce Jones, a MEREDA board member and executive with Creative Office Pavilion. “Place and technology work together to improve employee engagement, performance and well-being. MEREDA is excited to bring this conversation to Maine.”

Motivated by the rapid changes to work styles, expectations of younger generations and accelerating technological advances that have disrupted conventional notions of the office, workers have abandoned the cubicle, first introduced 50 years ago, for buildings which require less square footage, demand more open, flexible and adaptable environments, and pay dividends on the bottom line.

The event takes place on Tue., May 17 at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland, beginning at 12 noon. Registration and additional details are available at MEREDA.org. The early bird deadline ends May 11.

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New England Market Overview

Courtesy of CBRE | New England

After a slow and steady recovery it is time to officially say goodbye to the effects of The Great Recession. At this time two years ago the national economy experienced stabilizing capital markets, increasing consumer confidence and improving national labor conditions. These trends continued throughout 2015 and in many cases gained traction.

Reflecting back on 2015, the U.S. economy continued to build on the growth felt throughout 2014. At the beginning of the year, the national unemployment rate stood at 5.7 percent, and by November the metric had dropped 70 basis points to 5.0 percent, its lowest level in almost 8 years. U.S. GDP growth continued to expand in the third quarter of 2015 growing by 2.0% with household spending and fixed investments remaining robust but inventories growing slightly less than expected. 2015 ended up as one of the best years of job growth since 1999, adding on average more than 200,000 jobs per month through November. Looking ahead the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) continues to predict the U.S. will return to full employment by 2020 (indicating a 4-5% unemployment rate) with the strongest job growth in healthcare and social assistance.

The New England Economic Project (NEEP) projects an average annual rate of growth for the New England economy of 2.4% through 2018, a rate slightly below the projected national average of 2.7% for the same period. Growth of the regional economy is expected to peak in 2015 at 2.9% and then level off and remain at 2.7 through 2016.

The venture capital investment market spiked in the third quarter of 2015 across the New England region, rising 39% to $2.1 billion across 125 deals according to the latest Money-Tree survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers. This increase in activity allowed the New England region to surge ahead of the NY Metro area by over $300 million in the third quarter. Leading areas on investment in the New England market were once again the biotechnology and software sectors. While the New England region and the NY Metro region remain competitive with each other across this metric, the Silicon Valley region remains the clear front runner, receiving $7.9 billion for the third quarter of 2015 across 337 deals.

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Multi-Family Market Update

By Brit Vitalius, Principal, Designated Broker, Vitalius Real Estate Group

The multi-family market is at or near the top of hot real estate sectors in Southern Maine. The dramatic price increases are driven by strong buyer demand, low inventory and rising rents. In 2015, the total sales volume in Portland, Westbrook and Saco/Biddeford was up more than 20% in each area. This activity is particularly good news for Westbrook and the Saco/Biddeford area. I’ve been predicting Westbrooks resurgence for years and it may be finally happening – the number of sales were up 30%. Likewise, Saco/Biddeford has been slow to get back in the game, but in 2015 median prices jumped an astounding 27%.

Portland has launched into its own orbit for both sales volume and values. First, it was an extremely active year for sales as there were more large-portfolio transactions than any year in recent memory. The cap rates on these sales continued to push down to around 7%. This is a dramatic drop after many years with cap rates around 9%. Today’s buyers are driven by several factors: 1) The desire to place capital a cap rates above Boston and other metro regions, 2) The opportunity to reposition existing units to capture a higher end market with higher rents and 3) The security of a stable asset with an eye toward future appreciation.

The attraction of Portland to owner occupants and smaller multi-unit investors is also extremely high and inventory is the limiting factor. The median price of Portland 2 and 3 units were up 13% from the previous year while East and West End prices became almost stratospheric – $550k – $750k for 3 unit buildings. These sales were driven primarily by owner occupants of two different types: 1) Young first time owners who can live with imperfection and realize the cost of ownership is the same as the rent they were paying (even at these prices) and 2) Mature buyers who have the wealth to make the improvements needed and are willing to pay to live in the location they chose.

Finally, the Portland “rental crisis” was a dynamic covered extensively by the Portland Press Herald. While the rental market has tightened and rents have increased, the numbers in the press appear to be higher than the reality. Rents in Portland increased about 8-9%* rather than the 17.4% reported Zillow. In addition, the average 2 bedroom is probably closer to $1,300/month rather than $1,450 repeatedly quoted by the Press Herald.

March 29 2016 graphThe current market strength is driving the development of new market rate apartments in Portland’s downtown and outside the city. What effect will these new units have on the existing market? An increase in rental inventory could soften rents and bring about an abrupt halt to the exuberant optimism currently driving up sale prices. Watch the spring rental market to see which way the market is headed for the short term. Watch the market next spring to see how the new units are absorbed.

*Based on my 2016 Multi Family Forecast Report and a recent Comprehensive Housing Market Analysis by HUD.

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MEREDA’s Annual Real Estate Spring Conference: “The Office of the Future & the Future is Now”

Spring Conference PicToday, rapid changes to work styles, expectations of younger generations, and accelerating technological advances are disrupting conventional notions of the office. Workers are abandoning the cubicle, first introduced 50 years ago, for “the new office,” which requires less square footage than a decade ago, demands more open, flexible, and adaptable environments, and pays dividends on the bottom line. MEREDA is pleased to welcome two nationally renowned architects for a discussion about this tipping point, with real world examples of how place and technology work together to improve employee engagement, performance, and well-being. The conversation will be augmented by a panel of executives from three Maine companies that have embraced the tremendous business opportunity that comes with providing choice to today’s enlightened worker. Attendees will learn how to put these ideas into action, deal with resistance to change, and measure the benefits of this new way of working. Additionally, attendees will learn about the reverberations for commercial real estate, the spaces we build, own, and lease and how the Maine market is changing as a result.

Panelists Include:

Dean Strombom, AIA, LEED AP BD+C. Principal, Gensler, Houston, TX
Sven Govaars, MCR, SLCR, Strategist, Houston,
Kathy Shafer, Sr. Director, Worldwide Facilities, IDEXX
Paul Larkins, Director, Corporate Planning and Construction, Unum
Brett Austin, President, Kepware Technologies

About the Event:

MEREDA’s Annual Real Estate Spring Conference: “The Office of the Future & the Future is Now”

May 17, 2016 – 12:00PM to 6:00PM

Holiday Inn By the Bay
88 Spring Street
Portland, ME

12:00 – 1:00: Registration | Exhibits
1:00 – 5:00 Program
5:00 – 6:00 Networking Reception

Registering For This Event:

Registration Fees (per person): Members: $85.00*

Non-Members: $105.00*
Non-Profit Rate: $55.00
Students: FREE*

Municipal Officials & Employees: FREE**
Legislators & Agency Employees:  FREE**

Your RSVP is requested by May 11, 2016. Payment is expected at the time of registration. No refunds will be granted to anyone who registers, but fails to attend or who cancels after May 11th.

* Member and Non-Member prices increase by $15 after May 11th

** MEREDA is pleased to provide subsidized admission for students and municipal officials. Call MEREDA at (207) 874-0801 for details.

Visit www.mereda.org for more information and to register.

This Course has been APPROVED for 3.0 Hours of Real Estate Broker, Appraiser & Legal Continuing Education Credits. Approval for Architect credits is Pending.

This MEREDA Event is Sponsored by NBT Bank,  Verrill Dana, Commercial Properties Management, Mainebiz, Lavallee Brensinger Architects, Sevee & Maher Engineers, Inc., Pierce Atwood LLP, Office Resources, AAA Energy Service, PDT Architects, ReVision Energy & Gawron Turgeon Architects.

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MEREDA’s Morning Menu: Energy Islanding: Creating Microgrids for Grid Resiliency and On Site Generation

Breakfast Logo for Press Releases & Social MediaMicrogrids are a localized grouping of electricity sources that operate and connect to the centralized grid but can also disconnect and function autonomously. Microgrids serve several functions, they provide continuous electricity for buildings that cannot lose power, they serve as emergency shelters for municipalities preparing for resiliency in the face of increasingly severe weather patterns, and they support a flexible and efficient electric grid, by enabling the integration of renewable sources.

Join the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) for breakfast on April 14, 2016 from 7:30 – 9:00 AM at the DoubleTree by Hilton in South Portland to learn from local energy experts as they discuss what microgrids are, how they function, and how they work with on site generation. They will also show examples of microgrids being used in major cities today.

About our Presenters

Dan Kelley is Sr. Vice President & Service Line Leader for Energy & Power Engineering at Woodard & Curran.  Dan provides consulting and engineering services to meet the energy generation, conservation, and resiliency needs of clients across all markets. He has over two decades of project management, multidiscipline engineering, and process controls experience.

Geoff Sparrow is Director of Engineering at ReVision Energy.  Since joining ReVision Energy in 2006, Geoff has become NABCEP certified in both photovoltaics and solar thermal. Geoff is also a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Maine, and practices both mechanical and electrical engineering.

About the Event:

MEREDA’s Morning Menu Breakfast Event:  Energy Islanding: Creating Microgrids for Grid Resiliency and On Site Generation

7:30AM to 9:00AM

Doubletree by Hilton
363 Maine Mall Road, South Portland, ME
Buffet Breakfast: 7:30-8:00 am
Program: 8:00-9:00 am

Registering for this Event

Ticket Prices:
Member:  $45 pp  |  Non-Member:  $55 pp

Prices increase by $10 after April 7, 2016
Payment is expected at the time of registration.

No refunds will be granted to anyone who registers, but fails to attend or who cancels after April 7, 2016

Visit www.mereda.org for more information and to register.

This MEREDA “Morning Menu” Breakfast Event is Sponsored by Norway Savings Bank, ReVision Energy and Woodard & Curran.

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