10 leaders for Maine’s economic future
Maine faces a well-publicized demographic challenge: the population isn’t growing, and it’s getting older. Yet Maine’s economy has grown through a dedicated core of leaders, just a few of whom are highlighted here. There are others who have had an impact and others waiting in the wings, but here are 10 people making an impact on Maine’s economy right now and for the foreseeable future.
Betsy Biemann: CEO, Coastal Enterprises Inc.
PHOTO / TIM GREENWAY
A Harvard graduate who started her career as a Rotary fellow in Kenya, Biemann has helped CEI make a seamless transition after the retirement of its founder. The nonprofit has provided more than $31 million in financing to 148 small businesses in the past two years alone and stoked economic development in Maine’s rural areas.
Yellow Light Breen: President and CEO, Maine Development Foundation
PHOTO / MAINE DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION
Yellow Light Breen
Grew up in northern Maine, where his parents were back-to-landers. Now, after a banking career at Bangor Savings Bank, he serves as president and CEO of the Maine Development Foundation, influencing the state’s economic policy.
Joshua Broder: CEO, Tilson
PHOTO / TIM GREENWAY
In the past decade, Broder has built up a company that puts up cell towers and equipment. He’s hired hundreds of employees. He’s a veteran and makes it a point to hire veterans. The company is in a new headquarters in Portland and continues to grow.
Fred Forsley: Founder, Shipyard Brewing Co.
PHOTO / SHIPYARD BREWING
If there was a dictionary definition of “beer-entrepreneur,” there’d be a picture of Forsley. He started Shipyard Brewing Co. in what was then a run-down neighborhood in Portland. He built a successful beer company, but he also started Sea Dog Brewing, chain of brewpubs, and bought up a lot of property around Shipyard. Now, he’s a partner in what will be Portland’s first “brewtel,” a hotel with a beer theme. Despite a literal beer-truckload of competition, Shipyard continues to be Maine’s No. 1 beer, by production.
Marty Grohman: Executive Director, E2 Tech
PHOTO / E2TECH
Grohman built and sold a company that made deck boards out of recycled materials. He served in the Maine Legislature for two terms. He ran, unsuccessfully, for the U.S. House, District 1, seat in Maine. Now he’s running a nonprofit that touts innovation and environmental causes, but also sells out its regular forums.
Steve Mills: CEO, Maine Beer Co.
PHOTO / MAINE BEER CO.
Mills didn’t build the Maine Beer brand or convince its fans to stand out in winter weather waiting for new issues of the beer. But he was brought in with the founders acknowledged they couldn’t take the company to the next level. Meantime, Maine Beer continues to grow, both in output and physically, with its Freeport HQ growing ever-larger.
Beth Shissler, Don Oakes: President, CEO, Sea Bags LLC
PHOTOS / SEA BAGS
Beth Shissler and Don Oakes
Sea Bags had been around since 1999, but it took Shissler’s vision of what the tote bag maker could be to make it a recognized brand. Inc. Magazine ran a story titled, “This company turns tons of old sails into tons of cash.” Now, with Shissler’s brand sense and Oakes’ marketing expertise from years at L.L.Bean, the company has 25 stores in resort towns from Maine to Florida.
Melissa Smith: CEO, WEX Inc.
PHOTO / TIM GREENWAY
She’s helped build a public company with $1.5 billion in annual sales. More than that is the impact she’s had on Maine, moving the corporate headquarters to Portland’s East End and showcasing the city as a hub for finance and bringing with her 400 employees. Now Covetrus, Maine’s largest public company, is building its headquarters a block away.
Brian Whitney: President, Maine Technology Institute
PHOTO / MAINE TECHNOLOGY INSTITUTE
Under Whitney, MTI has been at the center of the funding hub for the state’s entrepreneurs, using matching grants to foster independence and growth. Whitney has also been able to balance the needs of the entrepreneurial community with the demands of Augusta.
Updated: July 29, 2019