On Jan. 1, 2011, the Bangor Daily News named 11 people to watch in the coming year. Some of them were household names, others were newcomers to the state’s political and economic landscape, a handful worked relatively quietly in their fields of endeavor.
Not all of them fared well as the year wore on. Three of them left the state, while the others continued to make news in large and small ways. More than half of them are expected to make headlines in 2012.
1. Linda Bean, lobster dealer and heir to L.L. Bean fortune.
The granddaughter and heiress of L.L. Bean opened two restaurants in 2011. The 240-seat Linda Bean’s Maine Kitchen & Topside Tavern debuted July 1 across the street from the Freeport store that bears her grandfather’s name. Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster Cafe opened as the leaves were turning at the Portland Jetport as part of its expansion. She licensed that business to HMSHost with the agreement that it can expand to turnpike operations and other airports.
Bean said in October that she also has licensed an operation at the annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, a 45-day event.
In addition to lobster rolls, “cuddlers,” cooked lobster claws that you can eat while you walk, will be featured. A “Cuddler” is a lobster claw you hold on the half-shell instead of a stick. Bean has been talking to Epcot about a permanent kiosk. She also is distributing live lobsters and finished products through Walmart, Hannaford Bros. and Shaw’s Supermarkets.
“I’ve learned that my name, Bean, combined with Maine lobsters opens doors,” the businesswoman said in October. “It’s a real blossoming.”
2. Tarren Bragdon, former CEO of the politically conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center.
Bragdon left the state for Florida in June after a controversial bill to deregulate health insurance, which he helped craft, passed the Legislature.
Bragdon now heads the Foundation for Government Accountability, a Naples, Fla.-based conservative think tank he created this summer. It is a member of the State Policy Network, a national umbrella organization for nonprofits that push free-market ideas.
Now based in Naples, Bragdon said he also planned to open an office in Tallahasee — the Florida state capital.
Before leaving Maine, he said he was looking forward to taking his conservative ideas to a bigger and, possibly, more receptive arena. Bragdon was considered a close adviser to Gov. Paul LePage, co-chaired his transition team and helped the governor put together his first $6.1 billion budget proposal.
Bragdon has been noticed by national conservative leaders, a Florida newspaper reported.
3. Susan Corbett, CEO, Axiom Technologies.
The woman known in rural Washington County as the “Internet Goddess” made news in May for her support of a proposed $1.50 increase per pack in the state tax on cigarettes to bolster the Fund for a Healthy Maine, reduce teen smoking and help economic development.
Susan Corbett urged that some of the money be used to invest in economic development. The proposal, put forward after Gov. Paul LePage said he would use money from the tobacco-settlement fund to balance the budget, died quickly after a threatened veto.
Corbett’s firm continues to supply high-speed Internet access to thousands of residents and businesses across Washington County.
4. Habib Dagher, director of the DeepCwind Consortium and Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine.
Dagher’s proposal for a deep water wind farm off Maine’s coast moved closer to reality earlier this month as state and federal officials got a more detailed look at a Norwegian energy company’s proposal. The interest shown by Statoil North America Inc., a division of the Norwegian company Statoil ASA, and a major industry player in offshore wind, immediately accelerated the potential development of the sector in Maine.
In October, European officials from Italy, Germany and Norway visited UMaine’s Offshore Wind Laboratory to preview plans to install a 500-megawatt floating wind turbine farm in the Gulf of Maine by 2020.
In August, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar got a tour of the new testing facility, constructed with $17.4 million in public money.
“This lab has caught the inspiration and imagination of the world,” he said.
5. Rebecca DeKeuster, CEO of Northeast Patients Group.
The woman expected a year ago to play a major role in the expansion of the state’s medical marijuana law, was out of the business two months into 2011.
DeKeuster resigned her position as head of Northeast Patients group on Feb. 24 after she allegedly breached the terms of her contract by using inside information to cut a deal with a Rhode Island-based group headed by former professional basketball player Cuttino Mobley.
The lawsuit, filed July 6 in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland by Northeast’s former financial partner, Berkeley Patients Group of California, charged DeKeuster with breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty and is seeking $632,000 in lost investments and related costs. The lawsuit is pending but Northeast announced in August it had secured $1.6 million in capital from Mobley.
Northeast holds licences for medical marijuana dispensaries in Thomaston, Bangor, Kennebec County and in the Portland area.
6. Peter Martin, governmental relations adviser for Black Bear Entertainment.
Construction began this summer on Black Bear Entertainiment’s $165 million, four-season resort with a casino, which will include a hotel, restaurants, conference space and a spa.
In September, it was announced that Silverton Casino in Las Vegas, Nev., would be its gaming partner.
Voters in November rejected proposals for gaming facilities in Biddeford, Lewiston and Washington County. Voters in Penobscot County, however, approved adding table games to the slot machines at Hollywood Slots in Bangor.
Peter Martin persuaded legislators to pass a bill that defined the 100-mile distance required between gambling facilities as road miles rather than as-the-crow-flies miles. He also helped defeat a bill that would have created a competitive bid process for potential casinos.
7. David Proffitt, CEO of The Acadia Hospital.
David Proffitt’s resignation was announced on April 1 by Michelle Hood, president and CEO of the hospital’s corporate parent, Brewer-based Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems. Proffitt had headed up the 100-bed psychiatric hospital since the fall of 2008.
His resignation was the culmination of months of criticism from employees, who charged that his policies aimed at eliminating the use of patient restraints had led to a significant increase in worker injuries at the hands of out-of-control patients.
Those complaints led to a federal investigation in 2011 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which found a number of worker safety violations.
In September, Proffitt took over the reins of the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, Minn. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that he replaced a man removed the same month Profitt left Acadia for some of the same safety issues for which he was criticized in Maine.
8. Roxanne Quimby, conservationist and philanthropist.
Wealthy conservationist Quimby’s proposal to donate 70,000 acres of remote land in northern Maine for the creation of a national park divided Mainers and made the founder of Burt’s Bees personal care products nearly as controversial a figure as Gov. Paul LePage.
An independent poll in December showed that 60 percent of Mainers supported a National Parks Service feasibility study of Quimby’s proposal.
The day after the survey was released Peter Hanson, president of Great Northern Paper Co LLC, told 75 Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce members that he felt a national park and his industry could coexist well, but added that he would “have a concern” about answering to federal air quality standards.
A week later, his resignation over what company officials called “philosophical differences” was announced.
Critics of Quimby’s park plan say they prefer a “working forest” where logging can co-exist with outdoor recreationists to a park with restricted uses.
9. Kevin Raye, Senate president.
The Republican state senator from Washington County announced in October that he had f ormed an exploratory committee to consider challenging Democrat Mike Michaud for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat next year. Raye lost the race to Michaud in 2002.
Raye is serving his fourth and final term in the State Senate due to term limits.
Raye was credited with helping Republicans win a majority in the state Legislature for the first time in 30 years in 2010. He has helped shepherd reforms sought by Gov. Paul LePage through the Legislature including a major health care regulation bill.
Raye failed, however, to push through a redistricting plan for the state’s two Congressional districts that, if approved, might have made it easier for him to beat Michaud in 2012.
As of Dec. 26, Kevin Raye had not announced his decision about running for Congress.
10. Kenneth Smith, Millinocket school superintendent.
Kenneth Smith’s bold initiative to bring students from China to Stearns High School hit a snag when just three students enrolled in the fall.
School officials originally planned to recruit as many as 60 Chinese students but a recruiting failure by an agent in China reduced that number to six or seven, then three.
The international student program, which school leaders first discussed in 2009, was to have earned the district $24,000 in tuition per student per year. Money for tuition was seen as much-needed revenue that eventually could grow to offset declining state and federal aid, a decline in student population and an enormous tax revenue loss caused by a revaluation of the Katahdin Avenue paper mill.
In addition to student recruiting problems and financial woes facing the region, school board Chairman Arnold Hopkins resigned earlier this month after he predicted a $140,000 to $150,000 budget shortfall.
Hopkins was the only board member to voice significant reservation about the China program. Smith said recently that closer ties to an individual school in China might make Stearns more attractive to Chinese students and their families.
11. Peter Vigue, chairman and CEO, Cianbro Corp.
One of Vigue’s latest ideas is to lease the median strip of Interstate 95 to Bangor Hydro, which could run a utilities line from Canada through Maine to the rest of New England. Those lease payments could help pay for an East-West Highway.
Cianbro began two major construction projects in Maine this summer: the $65 million Bangor arena and events and convention center, which will replace the Bangor Auditorium and the $165 million Oxford Casino. Vigue also is involved in the development of deep-water, offshore wind turbines at the University of Maine. Cianbro is expected to fabricate the components to the floating turbines.
Vigue has said he saw real potential for Maine, not just in diversifying the energy sources, but in developing and building next-generation offshore wind technology.
“I do not think we’ve come anywhere close to achieving what we’re capable of achieving in this state, from an economic perspective,” Vigue said in March. “This is an opportunity not only for Maine but for this country to become an exporter of much of this equipment on a global basis.”
BDN writers Meg Haskell, Jeff Tuttle, Nick McCrea, Eric Russell, Judy Harrison, Nick Sambides Jr. and Matt Wickenheiser contributed to this report.