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March 23, 2015 From the Editor

Maine's business leaders are about more than the bottom line

It's always good when a reporter comes back from an assignment and says, “Oh man, we talked for three hours!”

That was the case with all three of the interviews with this year's Business Leaders of the Year.

It's always a tough decision and we get a deep pool of nominations. There's the criteria of having a strong business that has shown good performance over the past year. There's the element of being a good employer, someone who looks out for the best interest of employees. There's the desire to find a leader who is doing well but also doing good by contributing to nonprofit causes or charity.

In the category of large company, Doug McKeown, president, CEO and chairman of the environmental engineering firm Woodard & Curran, has demonstrated his knack for building the company. Since coming on board as CEO, the company has doubled its revenues and its workforce. Last year, it added an office in St. Louis. It's also obvious he cares about Maine.

In the category of small company/entrepreneur, Jim Wellehan, co-owner of shoe retailer Lamey-Wellehan, has shown that he can outsmart the big box stores and the online retailers. He's also demonstrated that by eliminating plastic bags and other waste at the store, he can buck an industry's wasteful ways.

In the nonprofit category, Donna Dwyer, executive director of My Place Teen Center, has shown she knows how to raise money, gather in-kind contributions and pay off the mortgage. She has also shown herself to be adept at one of life's great challenges — how to talk to teenagers.

I think you'll enjoy reading about them. And I invite you to our Business Leaders of the Year celebration, which will be May 7 at the Portland Country Club.

Forbes I

A lot of people around here would like to forget Forbes magazine and its annual stick-it-to-Maine list. You might recall that the New York City-based publication last year ranked Maine No. 49 on its list of “Best States for Business,” citing the state's high corporate taxes and lackluster economic outlook. Maine also scored poorly for regulatory environment, growth prospects and business costs, but better on labor supply and quality of life.

Adding insult to injury, Business Insider jumped on the bandwagon recently, also ranking Maine second to last.

All of this brings me to a meeting I had with folks at the Island Institute, the Rockland-based nonprofit.

Rob Snyder, the organization's president of two years, had a similar reaction to the lists.

His suggestion: “Why doesn't Mainebiz come up with its own ranking of states, and develop its own ranking criteria so Maine comes out on top?”

Hmm, sounds like an interesting idea.

Forbes II

A reporter at the aforementioned Forbes called me last week to ask for some help in researching another list, Forbes' list of the richest person in each state.

The list grew out of the billionaires list Forbes publishes. I was having a hard time thinking of who might rank first in Maine, let alone among the nation's billionaires. Leon Gorman, former L.L.Bean chairman, has been widely reported as Maine's richest person, with a net worth estimated at $860 million. Among the Forbes 400, none resided in Maine, while 65 lived in New York and 39 in Texas, according to the 2014 list. Maine is among 10 states with no one on the list. IDEXX founder David Shaw is among the 400, but is apparently listed as based in New York.

I couldn't resist giving the reporter a hard time about Maine's ranking on the “Best States” list, but I was truly at a loss for information he could use in the richest person list.

“The thing is,” I said, “even if someone were loaded, you'd never know it. They wouldn't build a big, fancy house. They'd go out of their way to not look showy.”

The reporter agreed. “Oh, I totally get that. I'm from the Midwest.”

Read more

Changing lives: Donna Dwyer rebuilds dilapidated teen center, teen lives

Lamey-Wellehan President Jim Wellehan creates a legacy of advocacy and fairness

Work that matters: Woodard & Curran CEO Doug McKeown puts employees and environment first

Introducing our 2015 Business Leaders of the Year

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