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April 15, 2015

Blackstone Accelerates Growth program won't continue

FILE PHOTO / Tim Greenway Don Gooding, executive director of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development.

Funds for Blackstone Accelerates Growth, a $3 million initiative launched in 2011 by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, will run out by this fall and won’t be renewed in the program’s current form, parties involved in the program confirmed.

“The investment in this program has come to an end,” Jess Knox, statewide innovation hub coordinator for the effort, told Mainebiz. He said the foundation considers the program a success.

He added that the Blackstone Charitable Foundation is reengineering its giving, so the current Maine partners will focus on other ways to get money, including from the foundation. Knox said they will try to continue working with it, though the Blackstone Accelerates Growth moniker likely will not be continued.

Blackstone Accelerates Growth is a partnership among the Maine Technology Institute, the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development and the Foster Center for Student Innovation at the University of Maine.

The program aimed to help Maine transition to an innovative economy, and initially touted helping Maine entrepreneurs create more than 10,000 sustainable and higher paying innovation jobs over a 10-year period.

Blackstone Accelerates Growth has helped expand the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development's Top Gun program, create the Accelerated Ventures program, the Innovate for Maine Fellows program and Maine Startup and Create Week, which debuted last year. The effort also set up innovation hubs in Portland and Bangor.

Don Gooding, MCED’s executive director, said Blackstone Accelerates Growth will also discontinue the $3 million program in other states. North Carolina’s program is near its end, Knox confirmed.

The $3 million grant to Maine was part of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s $50 million entrepreneurship initiative.

“They were trying something with the $3 million projects and decided, for high-end strategic reasons, not to keep doing it,” Gooding said.

“There’s a crew working on 2.0,” he added, referring to collaborative efforts to continue bringing money into programs funded by Blackstone Accelerates Growth in the state.

In a separate move, Gooding said MCED will take over the PubHub business networking events previously run by the Casco Bay Tech Hub, but hold them in a different location. The Tech Hub recently announced that tenants of the Casco Bay Tech Hub's co-working space would need to leave by May 1. That includes Knox and a Blackstone Accelerates Growth office, along with nine other tenants.

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