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Maine Builds Diverse Information Technology Sector

With a broad base of technology-related firms in financial services, GIS and business analytics, Maine has a critical mass of technology firms that are attracted to the active lifestyle the state offers.

By Jessica Walker Boehm on January 2, 2014

With a technology infrastructure considered the best in the nation and a highly educated workforce, Maine has become a hotbed of information technology enterprise. The state has leveraged its significant talent base and expertise to develop enterprise in specialized technology areas such as mapping, new media, bioinformatics and software development.

To support technology enterprise, Maine has developed the best tech infrastructure in the United States, according to the study Enterprising States: Recovery and Renewal for the 21st Century, released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Chamber Foundation.

For companies that rely on Internet connectivity, there’s no greater concern than quality of service. Based on FCC service quality data, Maine’s telecommunications system is one of the most reliable in the country. With more than 110,000 miles of fiber optic cable and 100 percent digital phone switching technology in place, Maine leads the country in telecommunications infrastructure.

Prepared for the Job

Maine’s IT workforce is among the most educated in the nation, with 79 percent of workers in the sector holding at least a bachelor’s degree and 91 percent holding at least an associate’s degree.

Two of the nation’s largest semiconductor producers, Texas Instruments and Fairchild, have operations in the state, and continue to benefit from the educated workforce. Texas Instruments acquired National Semiconductor in September 2011 and expanded its manufacturing footprint to include a facility in South Portland, in part because of access to that highly skilled IT workforce.

“Between National Semiconductor and TI, the Maine plant has been in operation for 17 years,” says Chris Joyce, TI MaineFab plant manager. “We will continue to attract top technical talent from the state’s universities and community colleges, and we look forward to continuing business in this prospering and productive state. We are passionate about working with the talented engineers in Maine who have already made, and will continue to make, great contributions to TI at this facility.”

Mapping the Future

Maine has dozens of software firms with GIS expertise, and is recognized as a GIS hub. The University of Maine’s Spatial Information Science and Engineering program makes it one of three universities in the United States to offer advanced degrees in this field.

“There’s a pretty good demand for expertise in this area, nationally and locally, and we want to support that,” says Dr. Kate Beard, a professor with the University of Maine’s Department of Computing and Information Science.

The programs turn out qualified graduates to supply the major GIS companies in the state, including DeLorme Mapping and Blue Marble Geographic. The department also supports research and collaborates with companies making use of Big Data, Beard says.

Michael Heffron, CEO of DeLorme, considers Maine’s quality of life and outdoor attractions among the best assets the state has to recruit high-tech workers from out of state.

“Maine has things it can offer those who are looking for an active outdoor lifestyle, which is something that a lot of high-tech people are interested in,” he says.

 To build Maine’s capacity for workers prepared for high-tech jobs, Heffron has established relationships with key departments at the University of Maine.

“We’re working with them to provide employment within Maine for those students they’re graduating,” he says.

With a strong sector of financial services companies such as Unum, the global long-term disability insurer, a number of software development companies geared to financial services have grown up in Maine. WEX, for example, is a Portland-based company that develops proprietary software for corporate fleet fuel management services.

Quantrix, based in Portland, develops business modeling and analytics software and services that let companies forecast, budget, plan and data-model. Dave Phillips, marketing director, says that while the Maine technology sector is growing, it remains a supportive community

“Because of its size the community tends to be tight-knit and there’s lot of opportunities for networking,” he says. “There’s also a strong start-up community so you have access to other people who have gone through the process of building technologies and securing funding.”

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