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Updated: August 28, 2023

Start ME Up: From Portland to Presque Isle, an entrepreneur's guide to Maine regions

Photo / CITY OF PRESQUE ISLE, FACEBOOK Presque Isle, in northern Aroostook County, abounds with outdoor recreation possibilities and hosts the Crown of Maine Balloon Festival every August.

Entrepreneurs considering Maine as a place to start or grow a business are spoiled for choices when it comes to possible locations, from the bustling city of Portland on the state’s southern coast to Presque Isle up north.

Other options include the state capital of Augusta and nearby Waterville, re-emerging Skowhegan, the twin cities of Lewiston and Auburn and the Greater Bangor area, which one local likens to a small town where personal relationships matter.

One could say the same of the whole state, with a population of 1.3 million and a large rural footprint. As a starting point for business movers and shakers deciding where to plant roots, here’s an overview of what different regions have to offer.

Portland — Coastal coolness

Local resources: Startup Maine, Roux Institute, Maine Center for Entrepreneurs, New England Ocean Cluster, Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, Black Owned Maine

Coworking: CloudPort, ThinkTank, Peloton Labs, CoworkHERS, the Third Place

Networking: Startup Maine meetups, Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues and Kegs & Issues, Live + Work in Maine “Community Welcome” events

Where to grab coffee: Bard, Coffee By Design, Speckled Ax

Livability pluses: Foodie heaven, growing college town, museums, islands

Photo / Jim Neuger
Katie Shorey

Insider’s tip: “Utilize all the resources that Maine has to offer - from grants to founders programs to pitch competitions. Mainers want to see businesses — old and new — succeed,” says Katie Shorey, president of Startup Maine. Her other suggestion: “The Portland entrepreneurial community loves events, and it can be the best way to meet people.”


Brunswick — Flying high

Local resource: Midcoast Regional Development Authority, Coastal Enterprises Inc.

Coworking: TechPlace, Brunswick Landing’s technology and manufacturing business incubator, with shared office and industrial space, a shared machine shop, composites facility and bioproduction lab

Networking: Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber events

Livability pluses: Walkable downtown, Bowdoin College, Maine State Music Theatre, expansive trail system at Brunswick Landing

Where to grab a beer: Flight Deck Brewing, located in the former Small Arms Firing Range on the redeveloped Brunswick Naval Air Station (now Brunswick Landing)

Photo / Fred Field
Jaimie Logan, left, is the director of TechPlace at Brunswick Landing. With her is Kristine Logan, who founded TechPlace and was its first director. Kristine Logan is now the executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which oversees Brunswick Landing.

Insider’s tip: “At Brunswick Landing, the sky’s the limit,” says Jaimie Logan, director of TechPlace, Brunswick Landing’s technology and manufacturing business incubator. “We’re ready to help your company reach its goals, whether that includes launching cube satellites into space or brewing a fine Maine ale.”


Skowhegan — Renaissance town

Local resources: Main Street Skowhegan Economic Development Corp., Skowhegan Chamber of Commerce

Coworking: Skowhegan Center for Entrepreneurs

Networking: Main Street Skowhegan and Chamber events

Livability pluses: Outdoor recreation; festivals including River Fest and Skijor Skowhegan; free outdoor activities and gear available through Main Street Skowhegan’s Skowhegan Outdoors program; local food hub

Where to grab coffee: Miller’s Table at Maine Grains, the Bankery & Skowhegan Fleuriste and the new Joe’s Flat Iron Café

File photo / Fred Field
Kristina Cannon, president and CEO of Main Street Skowhegan

Insider’s tip: “Skowhegan is currently undergoing a renaissance,” says Kristina Cannon, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan. “With more than $650 million in investment expected in the next few years, there’s never been a better time to join the Skowhegan community, which is full of go-getters, innovators and passionate individuals who value collaboration and camaraderie.”


Augusta & Waterville — Capital connections

Local resources: Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation at Thomas College (Waterville), Central Maine Growth Council, Dirigo Labs, Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce

Coworking: Bricks Coworking & Innovation Space (Waterville)

Networking: Chamber events

Where to get your chocolate fix: Bixby Chocolate Café (Waterville)

Where to get coffee: Wild Clover Café& Market (Waterville)

Livability pluses: Revitalized downtowns, central location, Colby and Thomas colleges in Waterville, the new Paul J. Schupf Arts Center (Waterville), Kennebec River recreation

Provided photo
Nancy Marshall

Insider’s tip No. 1: Augusta’s “restaurant scene has been revitalized with places like State Lunch and Cushnoc on Water Street, plus an eclectic variety of great restaurants in Hallowell,” says Nancy Marshall, CEO of Marshall Communications. “Plus, the state capital draws Maine’s leaders along with all the affiliated services. It’s a great mix of rural and urban. I’ve had my offices there since 2001 and am glad to be headquartered there.”

Provided photo
Nick Rimsa

Insider’s tip No. 2: “The spirit of collaboration and community truly sets central Maine apart as an ideal location to start a business,” says Nick Rimsa, owner of Tortoise Labs.


Bangor & Orono — Two college towns

Local resources: University of Maine including Foster Center for Innovation (Orono), Husson University (Bangor), UpStart Maine (Bangor), Big Gig business-pitch events

Coworking: UpStart Center for Entrepreneurship (Orono), Rize CoWorking & Collaboration Space (Bangor), Bangor Innovation Center

Where to grab coffee: Bagel Central, Chimera Coffee and Wicked Brew Café in Bangor, Nest in both places

Networking: Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce events, Fusion: Bangor events, Mainebiz Bangor Breakfast Forum, annual Bangor "Blitz" startup conference

Livability pluses: Downtown Bangor revitalization, arts and culture, outdoor recreation

Photo / Soubanh Phanthay
Renee Kelly

Insider’s tip No. 1: “The economic development directors in the area work really well together, so no matter which one you start with, they will work to find a business owner a good option,” says Renee Kelly, University of Maine Office of Strategic Partnerships, Innovation, Resources and Engagement. “Joining Fusion: Bangor or participating in the Bangor Region Leadership Institute are the best ways for newcomers (or boomerangs like myself) to get to know the area and make strong connections.”

Provided photo
Ashley Briggs

Insider’s tip No. 2: “Even though the Greater Bangor area has a population of over 150,000, the area is still a small town and personal relationships carry a lot of weight,” says Ashley Briggs, owner of Briggs Solutions for Business and the Rize CoWorking & Collaboration space.


Presque Isle — Northern exposure

Local resource: Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce

Coworking: Ignite Presque Isle

Where to grab coffee or tea: HUB Coffee, Fuel ME, Bubble Tea Café

Networking: Chamber events, Momentum Aroostook

Livability pluses: ATV and snowmobile trails, college town (University of Maine at Presque Isle, Northern Maine Community College), Crown of Maine Balloon Festival

Provided photo
LaNiece Sirois

Insider’s tip: “Presque Isle is called the hub of Aroostook for so many reasons, there is truly something for everyone,” says LaNiece Sirois, executive director of the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce. She recommends creating a trip to the area around an event, many of which are listed on the chamber’s website.


Auburn & Lewison — Twin-city mojo

Local resource: Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce

Coworking: MUNKA Coworking and Co-Lab Create in Lewiston

Where to grab a beer: Baxter Brewing in Lewiston, Side By Each Brewing Co. in Auburn

Networking: Chamber events, Third Place events

Livability pluses: Vibrant immigrant community, Bates College, historic mill redevelopment, Lewiston Riverfest and Public Theatre, annual Auburn Lobster Festival

Photo / Tim Greenway
Jason Levesque

Insider’s tip: “Auburn has been and is currently a very entrepreneurial city,” says Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque, pointing to the city’s 50% discount on permit fees for veterans and grants for neighborhood grocery stores, agriculture startups, retail businesses and building facade improvements. “Combined with our aggressive gifting of city-owned land for development, and you have all the ingredients ready to start or expand an operation in Auburn.”

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