Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.
Bowling and basketball may not be the most obvious economic development strategies.
But when the Professional Bowling Association League came to Portland's Bayside Bowl for a six-day event in April 2015 and 2016, it had a $1.5 million economic impact each year. It drew the world's top 40 bowlers, plus more than 1,000 spectators. They filled hotel rooms, ate at restaurants and shopped long before the tide of summer visitors came to town. And the event, broadcast on ESPN, put Portland in the spotlight before 2 million viewers.
The America East Women's Basketball Tournament, which will be held at the Cross Insurance Arena in March 2017 and 2018, is expected to have a $3.3 million economic impact each year, based on event history and industry projections provided by the Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Maine Sports Commission. It is expected to draw more than 300 players and staff and more than 13,600 fans.
Brian Corcoran, CEO of Shamrock Sports and Entertainment, led the charge to bring those events here. In addition to that work, Shamrock serves as a matchmaker, helping sports leagues, venues and philanthropies find corporate sponsors and naming rights. Its client roster includes the 2017 World Rowing Championships and TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race. It also includes Military Adaptive Sports Inc., host of the 2016 Invictus Games, an event created by Prince Harry for injured members of the military.
Corcoran, an Old Orchard Beach native, earned a bachelor's in exercise physiology and a master's in sports administration from Eastern Kentucky University. He spent 20 years in sports marketing. He was managing director of corporate marketing for NASCAR and later was executive vice president of Fenway Sports Group, Boston-based owner of the Red Sox and Roush Fenway Racing. At FSG, he developed corporate partnerships for Roush Fenway Racing, the Red Sox and other properties.
In 2010, Corcoran returned to Maine.
“Portland was where opportunity on the business side met quality of life,” says Corcoran, 47. “I was able to invest in the business instead of a New York or Boston lifestyle.”
He now has 10 employees and field offices in Atlanta in New York. Being based in Portland helps him compete for business, he says. Having lower operating costs than the big-city agencies allows him to offer more competitive pricing. He can share a greater risk-reward balance with clients on lower management and sales retainer fees and lean more heavily upon performance-based partnerships.
Observers say that Shamrock's work has a positive ripple effect on the local economy long after the deals are sealed.
“It really puts Portland and Maine on the map,” says Greg Mitchell, Portland's director of economic development. “The more you expose people to Portland, the more they fall in love with it and want to come back. And you hope you can capture a percentage of them to support growth of the work force, entrepreneurs and business recruitment.”
Corcoran also plows time into mentoring Maine's next generation of business leaders. Some 40 college students and recent grads have participated in Shamrock's paid apprenticeship program, and many have gone on to work for organizations like the New York Mets and NASCAR.
“They get hands-on experience while they work here,” Corcoran says. “And we get to tap into their know-how, innovation and understanding of what's fresh and hip. Those insights are priceless.”
Shamrock has three former apprentices on staff and he hopes those who have left Maine will eventually bring their expertise back home, like he did.
In 2014, Corcoran founded Portland Media Group LLC, a film, television and internet production company that creates TV series, films and music specials. Last year, it partnered with organizers of Maine Startup and Create Week to create “Greenlight Maine,” a reality TV show where entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to judges and vie for a $100,000 prize. The show, which airs on WCSH-TV in Portland and WLBZ-TV in Bangor, is now in its second season. More than 150 entrepreneurs auditioned and past winners include Garbage to Garden, a curbside composting service.
Nurturing up-and-coming innovators also helps the economy, Mitchell says.
“It transfers the technical expertise from experienced entrepreneurs to the next generation and increases their chances of success,” says Mitchell. “And creating those connections shows [young entrepreneurs] that it can be done here.”
Corcoran lives in Falmouth with his two-year-old son and his wife, WEX Inc. President and CEO Melissa Smith.
On the job, he draws on the determination he developed while running cross country and track at the Division 1 level. Many staffers are former student athletes too. And this, he says, creates a corporate culture of passion, performance and teamwork.
“It's this positive can-do atmosphere,” he says. “They've got that competitive spirit, and are constantly looking for ways to be better. And that's contagious. Which is good because we're only as good as the next deal we secure.”