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March 17, 2016

MaineWorks owner wins state SBA honor

Photo / Tim Greenway Margo Walsh of MaineWorks at Martin's Point Bridge in Portland, where her company placed workers. Walsh was selected as the U.S. Small Business Administration winner for Maine for the SBA's annual Small Business Person of the Year awards.

Margo Walsh, founder and president of the Portland-based temporary labor staffing company MaineWorks LLC, on Wednesday was selected as the U.S. Small Business Administration winner for Maine for the SBA’s annual Small Business Person of the Year awards.

“Passion and commitment are what make successful small businesses and Margo has shown both with MaineWorks,” said Marilyn Geroux, SBA district director for Maine, in a prepared statement. “The growth of MaineWorks over the past few years is truly remarkable and we could not be happier for Margo.”

Walsh was honored by Mainebiz in 2014 among four Women to Watch.

MaineWorks is a temporary employment agency that specializes in finding industrial construction employment for individuals in recovery from substance abuse, those re-entering the job force after being incarcerated and veterans.

Walsh was nominated for the award by Douglas Collins and Alan Shaver of the Portland Chapter of SCORE, a nonprofit that provides mentoring to individuals in business or to those thinking of starting a business.

"Margo Walsh embodies the true entrepreneurial spirit of Maine,” said Nancy Strojny, chapter chair of Portland SCORE. “She created a company that combines a social mission with a for-profit enterprise. As a member of her SCORE mentoring team, I am delighted MaineWorks has been named as SBA Small Business of the Year.”

Born in Cumberland Foreside, Walsh earned a degree in psychology from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, then worked in New York City as a recruiter in Goldman Sachs' investment banking division and elsewhere. She returned to Maine to take care of sick parents, had two children and a divorce, then returned to the workforce.

"I realized I needed to be working, but I've never been one for an office job," she told Mainebiz when interviewed for her Woman to Watch award.

She became a volunteer at the Cumberland County Jail in Portland, talking to the inmates about recovering from alcoholism. She emphasized that jail time before sentencing generally lacks the work programs available to people in prison. She noticed the people in jail weren't working, and that's how she came up with the idea for her company.

"Jail is pre-sentencing, so you're sitting there bored to death," she said in the interview. She picks her employees from pre-release centers around the states, where those who were incarcerated are close to being released. Unlike halfway houses, which she says are like private enterprises, the pre-release centers are run by the jail system.

"The guys are looking for employment and at my company as the place for recovery and re-entry [into the workforce and society]," she said, adding that some 75% of jail inmates in Maine are there because of something they did related to drugs or alcohol. "If you take drugs and alcohol out [of the equation], you have a huge group of people who are relatively high functioning," and ready for jobs, she said. After doing temp work successfully, some even get hired permanently by her client companies.

Read more

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Women to watch: Margo Walsh, MaineWorks

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