Startup community growing in Waterville, central Maine

WATERVILLE, Maine — It is a good weekend for young entrepreneurs or startup companies to tune in to Thomas College’s annual Converge and Create event. In its fifth year, the virtual event will feature established Maine companies, venture capitalists, and state agencies offering advice for aspiring business owners.

Mike Duguay played host for the conference that kicked off Friday afternoon. When he is not taking over the microphone, he serves as executive director of Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation at Thomas College. 

Read and watch the full NewsCenter Maine article here.

Colby College, Other Maine Locals Help Revive Hard-Hit Former Mill Town

Not long ago, Waterville, Me., was a city of empty storefronts, with its streets in disrepair. Now, some 25 new businesses have set up shop in the downtown over the past four years or so, including everything from a bagel shop to a vintage clothing and furniture store. A startup accelerator is planning to launch its first cohort over the next three to six months in a renovated 4,000-square foot space located in a former mill building.

Read the full Forbes article here.

Maine college invests in once-struggling mill town, hoping rising tide will lift both

WATERVILLE, Maine — Colby College president David Greene stood on a dusty street corner in this central Maine city, looking at the buckled downtown sidewalk and a weed-speckled hole in the cracked concrete.

“There once was a tree there,” said Greene, who would like to see another fill the space.

Bringing trees back to Main Street is not a novel idea, but the ongoing revitalization of this former mill city goes far beyond plantings and sidewalk beautification. It’s one small, aesthetic piece of a broad and ambitious plan, driven largely by Colby, to restore vitality and good jobs to a small city that had lost much of both over the decades.

Read the full Boston Globe article here.

Next: Economic development expert Garvan Donegan is building growth in central Maine

Garvan Donegan has a background in public policy, investment funds and foreign trade zones, but in recent years he has been at the center of much of the economic redevelopment efforts in downtown Waterville, where efforts by Colby College have been paired with co-working spaces, retail development and restaurants.

Read full MaineBiz article here.

What’s behind Waterville’s emergence as Maine’s latest startup hub?

Waterville is a small city (pop. ≈16,000) nestled on the shore of the Kennebec River in central Maine.

Like many Maine cities and towns, its economy once relied on mills and manufacturing. And, like many Maine towns, it has had to find creative ways to rebuild its economy and redefine itself as the mills closed and thousands of residents lost their jobs.

Read the full Maine Startups Insider article here.

Dirigo Labs Hires Susan Ruhlin as Accelerator Managing Director

Waterville, ME 8/19/21 – Central Maine Growth Council (CMGC) is pleased to announce the appointment of Susan Ruhlin as the Accelerator Managing Director for Dirigo Labs. The accelerator, launching early 2022, will be a catalyst in establishing a vibrant startup hub in the central Maine region. Ruhlin will be responsible for the day-to-day logistics and operations of Dirigo Labs and will work directly with entrepreneurs, businesses, and local students to provide education of the Dirigo Labs’ suite of services, including preliminary startup consultation, talent retention and recruitment, and manage performance metrics during the project period.

“The central Maine region is Maine’s best-kept secret for launching new ventures,” Ruhlin said. “The commitment and support from the community is palpable, and I’m excited to be part of building an entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s only going to keep growing.”

As the Vice-President of Operations for Introspective Systems, a Portland Maine technology startup and Top Gun graduate company that develops software for microgrid controllers and energy storage systems, Ruhlin was instrumental in shaping business strategy, fundraising, and general operational oversight for the software startup. Ruhlin spent eight years working as the Program Manager for Top Gun, Maine’s first startup accelerator at the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs. Under Ruhlin’s management, Top Gun has expanded to five locations across the state and has served more than 150 companies. Notable startups include VETRO Fiber Map, Coursestorm, Pika Energy, Bixby, R.E.D.D., and many more. 

“As our new managing director of CMGC’s Dirigo Labs, Susan will work closely with executive leadership, academia, statewide partners, and state and regional startups to elevate Dirigo Labs’ operations and impact. Susan’s deep experience in Maine’s entrepreneurial landscape will be of significant importance to the regional economy, Waterville’s downtown district, and our growing innovation infrastructure. Her passion for community and startups made Susan an ideal candidate to help lead our efforts across technology sectors and legacy industries,” said Garvan Donegan, principal investigator of Dirigo Labs and director of planning, innovation, and economic development for Central Maine Growth Council. “As the Managing Director, Susan will play a pivotal role for startups as they access our services, explore funding opportunities, and discover what the region and downtown has to offer. It is also wonderful to see the new employment opportunities being created because of Dirigo Labs — not just the projected jobs created through future startups participating in the accelerator, but jobs that the program itself is creating. With this accelerator program, and one of our many new career opportunities, this is the beginning of significant local economic impact as a result of CMGC platforms supporting entrepreneurs and Maine-based startups.” 

The accelerator’s framework will provide guidance on a wide range of initiatives, catering to a high demand for advanced startups and increase the quantity of skilled labor in order to maximize product launch capability. Applications for the Accelerator will open in late fall of 2021, with an anticipated launch in early 2022. The cohort of innovation-based startups will participate in an entrepreneurship-focused curriculum, targeted mentoring sessions, and leverage the academic expertise from the accelerator’s partner institutions, student interns, and the region’s general business community. For more information about Dirigo Labs and Central Maine Growth Council, please visit

About Central Maine Growth Council: 

Central Maine Growth Council (CMGC), located in Waterville, Maine, is a public-private collaborative regional economic development partnership funded by municipalities and businesses who share a common vision of economic prosperity for our region. CMGC is committed to fostering a robust regional economy. We believe that a vibrant, healthy economy best serves our citizens’ standard of living and quality of life.

About Dirigo Labs:

As a public-private economic development partnership fostering a robust mid-Maine economy, CMGC is organizing the tech industry’s ability to transition the post-manufacturing economy through the Dirigo Labs initiative. Through this initiative, Dirigo Labs will galvanize mid-Maine’s unique diversity of academic institutions and tech firms to develop a startup accelerator that harnesses the entrepreneurship and digital skills of our students, graduates, academic faculty, and business owners to build a sustainable tech and innovation hub that powers a thriving rural economy.

Survey for entrepreneurs will help develop Dirigo Labs innovation hub

The Central Maine Growth Council is offering a survey for entrepreneurs and startups that will help evaluate activity, needs and goals of the sector across Maine as the council develops the Dirigo Labs innovation hub in Waterville.

Read full MaineBiz article here.

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