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Maine: Location of Choice for Business Investment, Jobs

Maine is traveling in the fast lane when it comes to business. The state’s $53.7 billion economy is both diverse and innovative, with major industry sectors that include clean energy, life sciences, information technology, environmental technology and advanced materials.

By Phil Newman on January 2, 2014

Maine is traveling in the fast lane when it comes to business. The state’s $53.7 billion economy is both diverse and innovative, with major industry sectors that include clean energy, life sciences, information technology, environmental technology and advanced materials. 

Companies considering Maine for investment will see more than just the state’s favorable attributes for business, though they are many and considerable. Maine ranked No. 1 for new business investment on Ernst & Young’s COST Report in 2011, for a highly skilled and educated labor force, committed educational partners and favorable incentives. When compared to its New England neighbors Maine has lower energy costs, generally lower labor costs and high productivity rates.

They Chose Maine

But beyond those attributes, Maine can tell a unique and compelling quality-of-place story that is every bit a part of its overall draw as a place to invest. Its renowned beaches, rocky coastline, scenic mountains and famed seafood contributed to Maine’s quality of life being ranked Best in the Nation by fDi Magazine, a trade publication specializing in foreign direct investment, and Portland being ranked No. 1 on Forbes’ America’s Most Livable Cities list.

“Lifestyle can make the phone ring,” says Peter DelGreco, president of Maine & Company, a consulting service for businesses looking to expand or relocate to the state. “It can turn a cold call into a warm one, but the bottom line is we have to show companies how we can make it work for them on a spreadsheet.”

It works for a number of globally known brands, from L.L. Bean to Bath Iron Works (General Dynamics), New Balance and Poland Spring (Nestle) bottled spring water.

DelGreco points out that there are numerous companies in Maine that could, by all rights, be located anywhere. Notable among them is The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, a popular tourist destination surrounded by Acadia National Park. The internationally renowned genetic research institution employs more than 1,400 individuals. Twenty-six Nobel prizes and the prestigious Shaw Prize are linked with the laboratory. Estimated annual impact is $353 million.

athenahealth, a health-care IT company, chose Belfast after a three-and-a-half-year national site search. The move reduced turnover, provided the necessary workforce talent and offered more affordable costs of doing business. The company has 600 employees in Maine, and is adding 100 annually. As a nod to its achievements, athenahealth was named to Forbes’ annual list of America’s 25 Fastest-Growing Tech Companies for the second year in a row. Its 2012 revenues were $422.3 million

Companies that once outsourced jobs have found success in Maine. Carbonite’s technical support division in India had 147 percent turnover with a customer dissatisfaction rating of 70 percent. The company decided to bring the jobs back to Lewiston and turnover decreased dramatically. Customer scores shot up to 90 percent satisfaction, and 250 employees now do the job that 400 previously did in India.

The World Is Maine’s Oyster

Maine’s attributes are attracting notice on an international scale. Global investment is on the rise in Maine, where U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies employ 30,400 workers, 8,000 in manufacturing, according to the Organization for International Investment.

The state offers a number of resources to encourage foreign investment. Among them is the Maine International Trade Center, which among other things helps steer foreign investors through the regulatory hurdles they face. The practice is working, says center President Janine Bisaillon-Cary.

“U.S. regulations can be daunting to foreign investors, so we believe in ‘hand holding’ to ease the process for foreign companies looking at doing business here,” Bisaillon-Cary says.

She credits a new program, Invest in Maine, for much of the state’s success in attracting new international business.

The state is also a major exporter, with $3.1 billion in exports in 2012. Canada, which shares some of its border with Maine, is the state’s leading export partner, accounting for $1.3 billion in trade. Canada also is the No. 1 foreign direct investment country, with 40 companies in Maine.

Partnerships and joint ventures often break the ice for global companies. Swedish health and medical products company Mölnlycke Health Care had an existing supply relationship with Rynel, a manufacturing company. Rather than continuing to purchase materials from Wiscasset-based Rynel, Mölnlycke decided to purchase the company. Two years later, Mölnlycke was named Foreign Direct Investor of the Year by the Maine International Trade Center.

The company in September 2013 opened a new wound-care manufacturing facility in Brunswick at Brunswick Landing, a $50 million investment that will create 100 new jobs over the next several years. The facility produces an advanced bandage product, which was formerly manufactured in Finland, using a patented adhesive technology.

“The catalyst for Mölnlycke building in Maine is the tremendous growth that we are seeing in the U.S. market for our products,” says Jim Detert, Business Development Director – the Americas.

 
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