The term “off the grid” conjures up images of survivalists, back-to-the-landers, energy efficiency geeks and on-the-run criminals. But another way to understand the phrase is as a description of those who choose to live and work in out-of-the-way places.

Places like Maine, jutting up into the northeast corner of the national map. Places like islands off the coast of Maine. Places like small towns in the northern, western and eastern parts of the state.

A July 12 all-day conference on Great Chebeague Island in Casco Bay is designed to give participants the tools to live, work and thrive in such places, say organizers.

The idea for the conference, dubbed SustainME, was born after a couple of community planning meetings on the island in late winter 2013.

Leila Bisharat, one of the organizers and an island resident, said a fellow islander captured the essence of what they hoped the conference would be, calling it “a marketplace for ideas.”

The conference will have an entrepreneurial thrust, she said, building on the sentiments expressed at last year’s community meetings.

“You could really see there was a focus to generate employment on Chebeague that has not been here before,” she said.

Bisharat and others organizing the conference—Laura Summa, Eldon Mayer, Jeff Putnam and Pete Pellerin—understood the importance of “quality of place” in the effort to improve the local economy.

“We want to make the island and other islands off the coast of Maine more attractive to younger people to raise their families,” Bisharat said.

Conference presenters will include successful entrepreneurs, said Mayer, who will impart what they’ve learned “in the case study way of learning.” The idea, is: “Don’t tell people how to do it, find people who have done it, and have them tell it.”

SustainME also will bring those who are interested in working with entrepreneurs, such as bankers and public sector financiers, Mayer said.

Over 35 people have been invited to present.

The keynote speaker is Pete Nelson, known as “the treehouse guy,” whose “Treehouse Masters” TV series has won a loyal following on the Animal Planet channel. Nelson will talk about how he turned his childhood passion into a successful global business, Nelson Treehouse and Supply.

“He’s a very alluring personality,” Mayer said. “He’s funny, he’s down to earth,” and he succeeds in motivating people to follow their dreams. Landing Nelson was a coup, he said, made possible in part because Nelson will be visiting his mother and other family in the Portland area in July.

Other presenters include Don Gooding of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development; Bob Martin of the Maine Technology Institute; artist Eric Hopkins; Steve Schaffer of Black Dinah Chocolatiers; John Jordan of Calendar Islands Maine Lobster Co.; and Rob Snyder, president of the Island Institute (publisher of The Working Waterfront).

A theme that emerges in the concept for the conference, Bisharat said, is that living somewhere in Maine other than busy coastal areas does not mean sacrificing economic vitality and personal fulfillment.

“You can be ‘off the grid,'” she said. “You don’t have to be in the center of Portland or Gorham or York.”

Registration for SustainMe opens at noon on June 1. See for more information.