Building regional innovation hubs to support entrepreneurship and job growth
October 7, 2011 – The Blackstone Charitable Foundation today announced the launch of Blackstone Accelerates Growth, a $3 million initiative that aims to help Maine transition to an innovative economy that supports sustained economic growth in years to come. With a goal of helping Maine companies add an additional 10,000 quality jobs over the next 10 years, this initiative will establish regional hubs of innovation and entrepreneurship which will serve as catalysts to propel new and existing businesses to greater levels of profitability and job growth. This grant is part of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s $50 million entrepreneurship initiative.
Blackstone Accelerates Growth will help Maine tackle the challenges that a rural geography and historically slow growth present its existing companies. By bringing a network of proven entrepreneurial services to companies in regions across the state, high potential companies and entrepreneurs will receive skills training, mentoring, and coaching services. Over time, this will build a critical mass of thriving companies throughout Maine.
Blackstone Accelerates Growth will support local partners including:
- The Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development and its Top Gun program, a venture development and mentorship program for early stage start-ups
- The University of Maine, which will prepare a cadre of student interns who have studied an innovation curriculum to support hub companies as well as offer Innovation Engineering/Jump Start, an intensive coaching program that works with existing companies on growth strategies
- The Maine Technology Institute, an early-stage capital and commercialization assistance provider, will provide project management and oversight
Blackstone Accelerates Growth has the potential, over a ten year period, to help Maine entrepreneurs create more than 10,000 sustainable and higher paying innovation jobs, a significant impact in a state of 1.3 million. The program expects to add an additional $664 million in new revenues to Maine’s economy over those ten years and have a significant indirect, multiplier effect in job creation and economic improvement. In the first three years, 250 companies will be served, and more than 400 students will be prepared for work with innovative companies in regional centers.
The project was announced at an event today at Brunswick Landing and was attended by Stephen A. Schwarzman, Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder of Blackstone; U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe; U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Karen Mills, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, U.S. Representative Michael Michaud, U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree, Deputy Commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development Deb Neuman, University of Maine President Paul Ferguson, Maine Technology Institute Chairman Jim Detert and Peter Vigue, Chairman of the Board, President & CEO of The Cianbro Companies.
“The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is pleased to become a partner in Maine’s transition towards an innovation economy that creates jobs,” said Stephen A. Schwarzman, Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder of Blackstone. “Blackstone Accelerates Growth will supercharge the efforts of talented local partners and public servants that have shown success in fostering entrepreneurship, and will launch a new state-wide approach that directly tackles the challenges of a rural economy. New hubs of innovation will help start-ups get off the ground and existing companies increase profitability by connecting entrepreneurs who are focused on developing markets, innovating technologies, and growing access to capital.”
“I commend the Blackstone Charitable Foundation as it officially launches its remarkable $3 million commitment to accelerate Maine’s economic growth. As we confront these challenging times of historic proportion, it is investment from companies like Blackstone that creates win-win propositions by sparking the kind of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit that creates crucial economic opportunities for hardworking families. We are immensely fortunate that Blackstone has chosen to partner with our great state in this watershed effort,” said U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe.
U.S. Senator Susan M. Collins said, “Maine has a long tradition of innovative thinking, skilled craftsmanship, and business savvy. Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s generous investment in entrepreneurial services in our state will provide a strong boost to our next generation of innovators and job creators. I commend the Foundation for its visionary approach, and I am heartened by its decision to commit charitable dollars to producing sustained economic growth and robust job creation here in Maine."
Maine Governor Paul LePage said, “The number one priority for my administration is jobs, so I am delighted that the Blackstone Charitable Foundation has recognized Maine’s potential to accelerate the growth of Maine companies which will result in job creation. This $3 million endorsement from one of the nation’s leading investment and advisory firms will connect Maine businesses to training and support that will help them grow. The entrepreneurs of today are our business leaders of the future and when they are given the tools to succeed our entire economy benefits.”
The grant to Maine is the most recent commitment in the Foundation’s 5-year Entrepreneurship Initiative announced in the spring of 2010. Influenced by the urgent need for job growth in the wake of the economic collapse, Blackstone changed its Foundation’s mission and committed $50 million to fostering entrepreneurship in places with high unemployment. The Foundation looks for innovative projects and catalytic ideas that can meaningfully contribute to the economic rebuilding of the nation.
What They Are Saying: A Quote Roundup
Congressman Mike Michaud:
“We need to be doing everything we can to promote the innovative jobs of tomorrow, and this is exactly the type of investment that we need in Maine right now. A collaborative regional approach will bring companies and communities together to reach their shared economic development and job creation goals,”
Betsy Biemann, President of the Maine Technology Institute:
“The initiative will make a meaningful impact not only on the economy but on the lives of Maine people and communities. Blackstone Accelerate Growth will change the trajectory for entrepreneurs today, and engage the next generation of entrepreneurs who are eager to innovate and start businesses.”
Don Gooding, Executive Director, Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development (MCED):
“We are extremely grateful and excited about this generous grant to help grow Maine. Our Top Gun program is now able to expand statewide and we believe this will help further accelerate entrepreneurial growth and create jobs.”
Paul Ferguson, President, University of Maine:
"This new collaboration will allow UMaine to extend its Innovation Engineering program to more Maine students and more business leaders, providing both inspiration and practical support to the innovators who will help define our state's economic future. We are pleased to join in this effort, and we look forward to its positive impact on statewide economic development."
About The Blackstone Charitable Foundation:
The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was founded at the time of The Blackstone Group’s Initial Public Offering in 2007 with substantial commitments from the firm’s employees. Influenced by the enterprising heritage of the firm and its founders, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is directing its resources and applying the intellectual capital of the firm to foster entrepreneurship in areas hardest hit by the global economic crisis. Through its investment expertise across several asset classes and geographies, Blackstone has a unique perspective on the global economy and a heightened understanding of how entrepreneurial activity is often the crucial catalyst in the growth of successful businesses, industries and communities. (For more information, see http://www.blackstone.com/CharitableFoundation.htm.)
About Innovation Engineering:
Innovation Engineering® is a groundbreaking program, developed by the University of Maine and alumnus Doug Hall of Eureka! Ranch, that teaches businesses and students a systematic approach to innovation. This proven approach reduces the risk involved in doing something new and increases the speed of development. Businesses can use the system to develop and accelerate a continuous flow of innovations that will increase profitability. Students learn how to employ the tools and methods of innovation in any field to solve real world problems whether they plan to start their own businesses or work in existing organizations. These skills are essential to success in the global economy and will prepare graduates to lead the commercialization of new products, services, and technologies.
About MCED/Top Gun:
A leading-edge virtual resource, MCED offers many entrepreneurship programs to ensure that Maine’s most promising start-ups receive the assistance necessary to meet their full potential. Programs include: Campus Ventures, which provides mentoring, curriculum and community to competitively selected entrepreneurs; Top Gun, a venture development and mentorship program for early-stage start-ups; and Lunch-and-Learn seminars, which serve as an asset to the learning experience. MCED partners with numerous organizations, and relies on a robust network of volunteer mentors and professional services providers, to ensure that Maine's most promising start-ups receive the assistance necessary to achieve their full potential. (For more information, see http://www.mced.biz)
About the University of Maine:
The University of Maine, founded in 1865, is the state’s premier public university, located in the town of Orono. As Maine’s land-grant university and the flagship institution in the University of Maine System, it is among the most comprehensive higher education institutions in the Northeast, attracting students from across the U.S. and more than 60 countries. It currently enrolls 11,250 total undergraduate and graduate students who can directly participate in groundbreaking research working with world-class scholars. Students are offered 88 bachelor’s degree programs, 64 master’s degree programs, 25 doctoral programs and one of the oldest and most prestigious honors programs in the U.S. The university promotes environmental stewardship on its campus, with substantial efforts aimed at conserving energy, recycling and adhering to green building standards in new construction.
About The Maine Technology Institute:
The Maine Technology Institute (MTI) is a publicly-financed, industry-led nonprofit corporation created by the Maine Legislature to stimulate research and development of new technologies for the market, generating good jobs across Maine. MTI offers early-stage capital and commercialization assistance in the form of competitive grants, loans and equity investment. Since 1999, MTI has funded development of innovative technologies across Maine’s seven technology sectors, biotechnology, composites and advanced materials, environmental technologies, forest and agriculture products, information technology, marine technology and aquaculture and precision manufacturing. More about MTI at: www.mainetechnology.org.