In the mid 1990's Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA based biotech began slowly expanding and by the early 2000's was teeming with growth. Eventually adding to that the aggressive Boston Seaport district overhaul, morphed the Boston-metro area into a global biotech hub powerhouse rivaling the San Francisco Bay Area in #'s of investments into biotech and pharma with companies based in MA.
Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA is the densest biotech cluster on earth, and it's just a stone's throw away from Portland, Maine at just over 100 miles away.
Portland, Maine is connected by Amtrak Downeaster and by bus on a daily round trip to Boston's North & South Stations. It was originally part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and then Massachusetts until 1820. Portland-Portsmouth-Boston share a rich colonial history as seacoast sister cities dating back to the colonial times when fishing, lumber and shipbuilding dominated the economy. Maine's vast forests were harvested for logs sent down the rivers to be used in many shipbuilding yards for merchant vessels and the King's Navy including in Boston's shipyards. These three seaport cities are still home to similar culture, cuisines and scenery, seafood restaurants, wine bars and micro-breweries.
The USS Constitution the oldest US Navy vessel in Boston's harbor was commanded by Portland's Commodore Edward Preble the famous commander when Thomas Jefferson called them into action in Tripoli during the Barbary Coast Wars. Preble's Navy ended 300 years of the barbaric practice of North African pirates maurading European coastal cities and enslaving their captives. Fort Preble in South Portland is named after the native son and Revolutionary War veteran. His portrait hangs in the Boston's Quincy Market Faneuil Hall museum alongside other great historical figures including Samuel & John Adams as well as George Washington.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, another Portland native, Bowdoin College graduate, founder of The Atlantic magazine and author of "Paul Rever's Ride" was also faculty at Harvard and retired in Cambridge. Longfellow Square in Portland's city center, historic home nearby and Longfellow Bridge which connects Kendall Square to Boston and Longfellow Park near Harvard Square are reminders of a connected DNA of human history between Boston and Portland. Wadsworth often visited the famous Portland Headlight keepers which inspired his poem "The Lighthouse".
Maine has long been the 'Vacationland' of New England with its lovely coastline of islands from Kennebunkport to Bar Harbor, dotted lakes like Sebago and Moosehead and mountain ranges of the Appalachian Trail ending at Mt Katahdin. Major rivers that offer white water rafting and sport fishing salmon and ski resorts in Bethel (Sunday River) Kingfield (Sugarloaf) and Rangeley (Saddleback) are all within a couple hours drive of Portland. A weekend playground for Boston executives who like to ski and summer in Maine over lobster dinners.
Not much attention was paid in past decades to economic reforms in Maine to create a tech hub until more recently. Investors and entrepreneurs are starting to take a serious look and others are banking on making Portland the San Jose to Boston.
The greater Portland area is already home to world famous veterinary diagnostics Idexx and Abbott Labs and many small biotechs. Jackson Laboratories in the Northeast corner in lovely Bar Harbor. Portland's older one story brick buildings reminds us of Cambridge, MA in the 1990's, poised for rapid economic expansion growth potential.
Portland has another advantage too as a deep water port city receiving hundreds of cruise ship lines annually. The Portland Jetport (PWM) like Boston-Logan(BOS) is quickly accessible and offers daily commute flights between the two cities as well as International travel. It's an area with excellent opportunity for expanding existing business parks as well as renovating downtown buildings similarly to the construction and innovation that renovated older Kendall Square buildings into labs and office spaces in the 2000's.
In 2019-20 Maine native, Silicon Valley investor David Roux and the Alfond Family made separate investments to fund the Northeastern Roux Institute in Portland with programs to educate students in areas of biotech, bioinformatics, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Engineering and Life Sciences as well as incubator space for R&D startups on the waterfront near the Eastern Promenade. The site of the new Roux Campus has been selected on the land of the B&M Beans building a familiar mainstay for area natives.
This is just the beginning of cooperative efforts in finance, construction and education in the region that can also take advantage of the growth of Boston-metro's existing infrastructure and connections to Portland. Future Maine students no longer need necessarily leave to Boston for jobs and CEO's may find a suitable home to anchor their livelihoods in the Portland area.
If you're a startup considering where to base your company, we have decades of experience with the Portland-Boston commute and placing offshore companies into Cambridge-Boston area incubators, which works for some companies who can afford it. Others especially CEO's with families looking for a cost effective 'lifestyle' fit, may find lovely Southern Maine communities to offer the best of both worlds. It is an easy commute even for day tripping between the two cities. You don't have to change your sports teams either its' all one New England community.
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