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President's Award Dinner

Robinson accepts award in suit at
Portsmouth Chamber Annual Dinner
Photo by Tom Cocchiaro

Chamber Presents President's
Award to Dennis Robinson

Tribute recognizes his dedication to both
organization and community

By Christine Gillette - Staff Writer

Reprinted with permission from
The Portsmouth Herald
June 6, 1998

PORTSMOUTH -- Dennis Robinson bought his first suit for Thursday night's Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce annual dinner.

It's a good thing he dressed up for the occasion -- Robinson was honored with the President's Award, a tribute from chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Robin Comstock for his dedication not only to the organization but the community.

For the last decade, Robinson said he has been devoted to promoting not just Portsmouth, where he and partner Tim Dubuque run Ideaworks, but the Seacoast as a whole. Looking at the region as a whole, Robinson contends, is key to its success, as is its history.

"I really think our future is in tourism of historic sites, much more so than anyone knows. We really are one of the great undiscovered historical locations because we haven't yet, and hopefully never will, turned ourselves into a theme park," Robinson said.

Comstock said yesterday that the award given to Robinson was a personal one, thanking him for standing at her side, helping her do her job.

Comstock said when she decides who will win the annual President's Award, she looks for someone who "is always the person that is never recognized" but works hard for the chamber's benefit.

"I try very hard to select people who are doing it because they care about the community." -- Robin Comstock

In 1998, the choice was easy, she said. "I have known for a year who would get the award for this year."

"This is a personal award, each President's Award that I have given has been me saying thank you to that person who has just risen above," Comstock said.

Comstock said Robinson has been involved with the chamber for many years, working on several projects, including producing videos promoting the community and its history and working on the Web site.

Comstock said that Robinson, and others who have won the President's Award, have raised the bar not only for other chamber members but for her as well. "They're rare and they're precious to us."

Robinson runs Ideaworks from a historic house in Portsmouth, preferring not to name which one to preserve his quiet workspace, something he learned from having four or five offices downtown that were easy for people to drop in to.

"I really have created a sanctum here -- fundamentally what I do is write. You need to be more or less hidden from view to do that," he said.

A former English teacher, Robinson spends much of his time adding to the web site, which is hundreds of pages long already, with three to four new pages coming online every week.

What attracts people to the Seacoast -- and makes him so enthusiastic about it -- is that the region's history has been preserved, instead of oversimplified just to attract visitors. Instead of hanging its tourism success on one aspect of its history, the Seacoast promotes its diversity, Robinson said. Continuing to do that, and figuring out how to continue to preserve its history in the face of the many tourists that will likely visit the region is going to be the greatest challenge of the next 20 years, he says.

The Seacoast -- all 25 towns -- needs to work together, says Robinson -- to pool resources to both educate visitors and accommodate them in a way that won't destroy the quality of like enjoyed by local residents.

Robinson has been doing his part to educate visitors both through the Web site and a newsletter on local history he puts out. "What I've been trying to do is tell the whole story, but it's a giant story."

Robinson said that while he's a chamber member, because he's a private business person, he's able to say what he needs to get his point across. "I can be a little provocative and pushy," he said.

Robinson isn't afraid to fight for his vision of the Seacoast, but stresses that he's not trying to force it on anyone, either.

"We can't stop the progress, so I think we need to control the technology. We need to be the best. So we work day and night for no pay trying to be the best," he said, adding that he feels thankful that somebody noticed, which is what the President's Award represents to him.

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