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March 31, 2016

Don Gooding sings highs and lows of MCED in swan song

FILE PHOTO / Tim Greenway Don Gooding, executive director of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development, has announced his resignation from the nonprofit effective June 17.

Last Saturday Don Gooding made a list of the things he’d like to do if he weren’t working full time as executive director of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development.

They included working with a smaller set of companies, talking to colleges and possibly MCED about spending a day a week working there doing workshops and other activities, and even becoming a mentor for the Top Gun Track Entrepreneur Development Program.

The decision to resign from MCED came quickly after he penned the list, though he admits the decision was difficult. Other items on the list including life enjoyments like traveling and singing more. Gooding was a former member of the a cappella Yale Whiffenpoofs and continued to sing at various venues in Portland, including breaking into Frank Sinatra songs at a innovation pitch competition when the presenters had technical difficulties.

“I had my five-year anniversary at MCED,” Gooding told Mainebiz in a telephone interview Wednesday. “I knew I wouldn’t stay forever.”

Looking at the list, he also found his own desires didn’t match up with what MCED needed to have done, so that reinforced his decision.

After talking to his wife, on Tuesday afternoon he emailed the MCED board and two other people, including Jess Knox, who has worked closely on entrepreneurial and innovation projects with Gooding and who heads Maine Accelerates Growth.

Gooding said he was surprised how quickly the information of his resignation, effective June 17, got around town, including details of his resignation letter.

Mainebiz on Wednesday wrote about the resignation and the letter, obtained by the Maine Startup Insider, with some details also in the Portland Press Herald Tuesday.

The letter said Gooding cited a budget shortfall the nonprofit is facing of $130,000 to $150,000 this year as among the reasons for his resignation, calling it a “tall order to fill.” He added that he doesn’t want to spend his time fundraising.

Gooding said he is proud of work by MCED that has led to Portland and Maine being recognized as an entrepreneurial hotbed. But there also have been challenging times, like the down period between October 2011 until April 2012 when some checks bounced, and he was only able to make payroll regularly once the money from a three-year, $3 million grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, was shifted to arrive at MCED at a different time to allow more cash flow, he remembered.

Raising money to keep MCED running was another challenge. Gooding told Mainebiz that the process of cobbling together multiple funding sources for MCED is akin to fundraising done by the entrepreneurial companies MCED helped.

“We’re funded by a line item in the state budget, MTI, Blackstone, corporate sponsors and other companies,” he said, as well as federal awards like the $390,000 innovation award it received in February from the Economic Development Administration's 2015 Regional Innovation Strategies program to expand its Top Gun Rural Accelerator Network. “We walk the walk of the entrepreneurs.”

He is not sure how MCED might change going forward, for example, with its well-known

Top Gun program. “I guess it depends on how much additional funding it gets,” he said.

Read more

MCED, CEI get federal innovation awards

Top Gun classes named for Portland, Bangor and Rockland

MCED's executive director, Don Gooding, announces resignation

MCED names interim executive director, looks for permanent head

App developer takes home $120K Microsoft prize at Top Gun pitch-off

Maine startups come out big with $1.3M in MTI funds

MCED names Gooding's permanent replacement

Thomas Rainey plots his to-do list for MCED's future

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