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October 24, 2017

WEX breaks ground on its new Portland headquarters

Photo / James McCarthy WEX President and CEO Melissa Smith, at center, is joined by city officials, developer Jonathan Cohen, WEX Chairman Michael Dubyak, and others during a groundbreaking ceremony for the company's new headquarters on Portland's eastern waterfront.

With the blast of a ship’s horn in Portland Harbor underscoring the location, a host of city officials, the development team and other key stakeholders joined WEX President and CEO Melissa Smith this morning in a ceremonial groundbreaking for WEX’s new world headquarters on the city’s eastern waterfront.

Smith was joined by Portland City Manager Jon Jennings; developer Jonathan Cohen, manager of 0 Hancock LLC; City Councilor David Brenerman, chairman of the city's Economic Development Committee; and Michael Dubyak, executive chairman of WEX; and more than 50 others that included WEX employees and reporters.

WEX (NYSE: WEX), Maine’s second-largest publicly traded company, is now based in South Portland. It will continue to maintain offices there.

The groundbreaking itself was strictly ceremonial, with a backhoe, bulldozer and Shaw Brothers Construction truck already at work excavating a far corner of the 48,000-square-foot Thames Street property. The site was sold by the city for $3.3 million in August to 0 Hancock Street LLC, the developer of that 100,000-square-foot, four-story mixed-use development that will become WEX's headquarters.

Smith told the gathering that WEX’s decision to locate its headquarters in Portland will be “a tremendous accelerator for the future growth of the company,” which topped $1 billion in sales at the end of 2016.

“We think being downtown is a big part of it,” she said, explaining that the vibrancy of Portland’s downtown will appeal to both the company’s worldwide customers as well as WEX’s current and future employees. It represents a commitment to staying in Maine, which she said is integral to the company’s culture of “innovation, integrity and building strong relationships.”

“It’s inherently part of who we are and why we are successful,” she said.

City Manager Jon Jennings characterized the groundbreaking as “a really historic day for the city of Portland.”

“To have a company of the magnitude of WEX choose to have their world headquarters on our waterfront is a significant accomplishment,” he said, crediting the city’s Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell, Planning Director Jeff Levine and Brenerman as key players who helped facilitate the sale and permitting process for 0 Hancock Street LLC and WEX.

Hancock Street’s Jonathan Cohen gave kudos to WEX as a partner in his project.

“I wish all of my projects could go so smoothly,” he said, noting that the construction work headed by Cianbro will exceed the 450 jobs that WEX plans to bring to the headquarters when it’s completed.

“When we create that many construction jobs, that feeds the economy of Greater Portland,” he said.

Brenerman described the project as a “game-changer for our waterfront and our community’s future growth.”

Former WEX President and CEO Michael Dubyak agreed, noting that during his 32 years with the company there were many periods when it wasn’t at all certain it would even survive, let alone remain in Maine.

“Our first eight years, we didn’t make any money,” he said, adding that the company went through several changes of ownership before its successful IPO gave it the capital and independence that set it on the path to growth it enjoys today.

“There is a resurgence going on all around this city,” he said. “It really is a distinctive city.”

WEX anticipates to be able to occupy its new headquarters sometime in 2019.

Read more

WEX tops $1B in revenue for 2016

Thinking strategically: Melissa Smith helps spur WEX to $1B milestone

WEX eyes Portland waterfront for its global headquarters

WEX a step closer to securing Portland waterfront site as headquarters

Portland council approves sale of site for WEX office building

Three reasons why WEX revenues grew by 23% in 2017

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