Portland, Maine, has long been known for its natural beauty. But increasingly, Portland is in the spotlight as a home base for entrepreneurs, creators and innovators.
Zeke Callahan is a lawyer. Kimberly Convery is an artist. Meg Schroeter owns a restaurant. Evan Burke is a business development/sales engineer. And they all want to talk to you about why greater Portland is such a unique place to live and create. The commercial capital of Maine, the greater Portland region has also long been known for its natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities.
Increasingly, however, Portland is in the spotlight as a home base for entrepreneurs, creators and innovators of all kinds, from the arts to technology to business entrepreneurship. Recently, Techie.com named Portland one of its Ten Most Unexpected Cities for High-Tech Innovation. Bon Appetit has saluted its world-class culinary scene. And Travel & Leisure calls it the seventh-greenest city in the country
Growing a Creative Community
“It’s a fertile ground for entrepreneurial and creative people,” says Jennifer Hutchins, CEO of Creative Portland Corp, which works with other public and private organizations to broaden Portland’s profile from a lovely place to visit to an exciting yet nurturing place to build a life and a career.
“We’ve found anecdotally that outside the state people have an image of Maine as ‘I went to summer camp there’ or ‘yeah – great lobster rolls,’ but when they come here they say ‘I had no idea there were Fortune 500 companies here, or so much IT here, or such great restaurants and craft beer breweries, or cool places to hang out and socialize.’
People who work in the creative economy have been flocking to the greater Portland area in recent years, drawn to the richness of its flourishing downtown culture, affordability and accessibility, a phenomenon that builds upon itself. Hutchins calls it “human nature” — creative people like to be around other creative people, and so the creative nexus grows and broadens
2 Degrees Portland
Creative Portland encourages that creative dynamism in several – creative – ways. Its LiveWorkPortland.org website is a colorful, people-oriented invitation to explore Portland, Maine. Besides the expected, and helpful, community information, nearly 200 profiles of interesting, creative Portlanders give a personal point of view of life there. And if visitors want to know more, they can request a phone call from one of the volunteers profiled. The program, called 2 Degrees Portland (“We feel there are only two degrees of separation between people here, not six,” Hutchins says), has been a huge success since it was inaugurated in 2011. The group also hosts mixers for newcomers and volunteers.
“We’ve had people from all over the country plan their visits to Portland around these events,” Hutchins says. “Mainers can be a bit hard to get to know, and this program facilitates that door opening. You may not think we want you, but we do.”
Beyond Southern Maine
While Portland is Maine’s largest city, the greater Portland region encompasses many idyllic and vibrant communities that reinforce Maine’s image as a desirable place to live, work, play and enjoy.
South Portland, for example, was ranked No. 3 on website GoLocal’s 2012 list of top New England cities. GoLocal noted that, “due to South Portland’s proximity to air, marine, and highway transportation options, the city thrives as a center for retail and industry in the northern New England region.”
South Portland also boasts the distinction of being certified as a Business-Friendly community by Maine Gov. Paul R. LePage.
Business-Friendly communities earn their designation from the Governor after demonstrating that the town or city has collaborated with the business community and streamlined its business permitting and regulatory processes to reduce bureaucratic hurdles for Maine’s job creators. Joining South Portland in the greater Portland region, the Town of Cumberland and City of Westbrook also enjoy the Business-Friendly distinction.
Bangor, Maine’s second-largest resurgence and has become a hub for Maine’s arts scene. Its Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion – a 58-acre public park located in the bustling downtown district and on the banks of the Penobscot River – is the leading summer concert venue in the state and attracts top-notch musical artists. Additionally, Bangor’s recently unveiled Cross Insurance Center boasts Maine’s newest conference and event setting. Opened in September 2013, the $65 million facility features an 8,000-seat arena, 1,100-person conference center and 12 private suites. It is the result of years of planning and community collaboration and serves as a true gem in the greater Bangor region.
The Business-Friendly communities of Brewer, Hermon and Lincoln are, like Bangor, situated in Penobscot County and are vital economic engines in the region.
Central Maine also features its share of Business-Friendly communities including the Twin Cities of Lewiston and Auburn.
Located along Maine’s scenic Androscoggin River, Lewiston and Auburn are former textile and traditional manufacturing centers that have been transformed over the past several decades and now feature beautifully restored historic mills that now house myriad information technology and financial services businesses, as well as breweries and restaurants.
As the second largest population center in Maine, and as the state’s logistics leader, Lewiston-Auburn features a diverse cultural, arts, and restaurant scene and is home to well-known businesses like Tambrands, a Procter & Gamble company, and up-and-coming companies like Carbonite, an online electronic data storage company.
Carbonite established operations in Lewiston in 2011, moving jobs once located in India back to the United States. The company employs hundreds in Lewiston and has been highlighted in recent years as one of the nation’s fastest growing companies on the annual Inc. 500 rating.
Undeniably, Maine features innumerable attractive cities, towns and communities for locating a business, working, attending college, raising a family, and playing.