Simply surviving 2009 was the goal for many Maine businesses.
But we found three extraordinary business leaders, who not only steered their organizations through the maelstrom of 2009, but managed to have them emerge stronger, more focused and poised for growth in 2010. They are our 10th annual Business Leaders of the Year.
After a successful career with a national food industry powerhouse, Michael Cote, our Small Company Business Leader of the Year and president and CEO of Look's Gourmet Food, returned to his Maine roots and undertook the rebirth of a cannery in Whiting. Today, the seafood processor has products on 27% of the supermarket shelves in America and is expanding into global markets, with revenues expected to reach $10 million by 2015. Mike's operation provides good jobs to one of the most economically challenged parts of the state and a market for local fishermen, helping sustain Maine's seafaring tradition.
Another traditional industry, lumber milling, is getting a boost from an unlikely source — Skills Inc., a nonprofit that provides services to developmentally disabled adults in Kennebec and Somerset counties. Under CEO Tom Davis, our Nonprofit Business Leader of the Year, profits from Sebasticook Farms Lumber Mill help Skills Inc. lessen its reliance on outside funding, while providing good jobs to a dozen developmentally disabled workers. A former entrepreneur, Tom brings a business perspective to Skills Inc. — which also operates a computer recycling business — and encourages other nonprofits to consider social enterprise.
His counterpart in the large company category, Michelle Hood, president and CEO of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, used collaboration and vision to provide health care beyond her seven member hospitals. (Yes, we realize EMHS is a nonprofit, but overseeing multiple for-profit subsidiaries and a work force of 8,000 gives Michelle the gravitas to manage any business.) Under her leadership, EMHS steadied the troubled Down East Community Hospital and helped break down competitive divisions to power a statewide effort to prevent and manage chronic disease.