Good old-fashioned hard work

BY Peter Van Allen


Whenever Mainebiz honors area business leaders some common traits emerge.

For our Business Leaders of the Year, we look for top executives who have created a growing, enduring business; demonstrated outstanding leadership over a period of years; shown compassion in working with employees and the community.

Particularly in the past year, the three honorees also showed that good ideas, energy and good old-fashioned hard work have not gone out of style.

Joshua Broder, CEO, Tilson: In the past year, Tilson, which provides a range of IT services, moved into a new headquarters in Portland. Under Broder, it continues to grow, with a headcount of 400 employees, including 100 in Maine. Its sales revenue is expected to grow to $77 million this year, up from $36 million in 2016.

Kathie Leonard, president and CEO, Auburn Manufacturing Inc.: Leonard was among the original class of the Mainebiz Women to Watch in 2009, and she indeed has set the pace in her industry, producing fireproof materials used in protective gear. She launched the company in 1979, touting a product that replaced asbestos. But what caught our attention this year was two things. She went to battle over trade guidelines, taking a stand against dumping by Chinese manufacturers, helping win an International Trade Commission ruling. Locally, she recognized that her company's wages had fallen behind even area big-box stores. She changed that, offering employees a raise of $2 an hour.

Steve Levesque, executive director Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority / Brunswick Landing: Levesque has led what to many was the ultimate uphill battle: Bringing life to a former Navy base, which created a loss of thousands of employees and a 3,200-acre hole in the regional economy. As Levesque points out, when a paper mill closes people usually stay in the community; when a Navy base closes, most of the government personnel is moved elsewhere. Yet Levesque seems to relish the fight, having recruited 105 companies, which in turn have created 1,620 jobs, and a total of $350 million in capital investment.

We continue to hear about the need for qualified workers in Maine. Just in recent days, we've gotten news releases from accounting firms, media firms and others touting new employee growth. A couple of examples:

  • Berry Dunn, the Portland-based accounting firm, has hired 14 people in the past three months. Eight of the employees are in Portland, while the others were placed at other offices. Berry Dunn is in five states. Overall, it has 350 employees.

  • Diversified Communications, a Portland-based media company with an array of businesses worldwide, hired four people for its home office.

  • Scanning our "In Short" section, you get a better idea of who is being hired at law firms, banks, architecture firms, engineering firms and nonprofits.