At a debate of Maine’s U.S. Senate candidates on Oct. 17 in Bangor, Secretary of State Charlie Summers continued to charge former Gov. Angus King with “aggressively promoting natural gas in Maine” because he is a member of the board of directors at Woodard & Curran, “a natural gas engineering firm,” according to Summers.
King correctly replied that just 2 percent of Woodard & Curran’s revenues are related to oil and gas work, adding that his natural gas advocacy is not connected to his board position.
As the CEO of Woodard & Curran and a voter in the state of Maine, it is perplexing to me that King’s role on our board, and Woodard & Curran’s role in natural gas, are being lodged against King in a negative way. Here’s why that surprises me.
Woodard & Curran is a Maine success story as an employee-owned, Portland-based engineering and operations firm started in 1979 by Frank Woodard and Al Curran, both University of Maine graduates. Starting above a pizza store in Gorham, today the firm is the 16th-largest company in Maine and ranks in the top 100 engineering firms in the country, thanks to the exceptional work of our employees and continued endorsement of our clients.
Our $130-million business is split evenly between work for the public and private sectors. Our clients include municipalities across the country, universities, hospitals and companies large and small. Eighty percent of what we do is environmental work, and the remaining 20 percent is manufacturing and production engineering, primarily for the food and beverage industry.
The firm started out helping communities in Maine and around the country provide safe drinking water and wastewater treatment to meet strict environmental regulations. Our services have expanded to projects like leading the design of the Ocean Gateway terminal in Portland, designing biomass boilers to help school districts control energy costs and working with Fortune 100 companies across the country on a range of manufacturing and environmental issues.
As the nation’s challenges have changed, so has our business, enabling us to grow to 650 employees, while maintaining our Maine roots. Five years ago, looking at trends in this country, we began providing environmental and engineering expertise to the energy arena. It takes the knowledge and experience of experts like Woodard & Curran’s engineers, geologists, and environmental compliance specialists to make sure that projects proceed safely and in compliance with local, state, and federal regulations.
The country needs to develop a policy that will allow energy independence. Many energy sources will factor into that policy, and natural gas has emerged as one that is plentiful and will have significant impact. There are engineering and environmental challenges to any energy resource, and we are proud that our firm is called upon to help address those challenges. We are doing the same for renewable energy technologies, such as wind, solar and biomass. We are confident that our role will help natural gas and renewables be a viable part of the overall energy solution, as we have done with water issues for more than 30 years.
Yes, King does serve on our board. We asked him to serve for a couple of reasons. As a successful businessman and former governor, we believed he would bring experience and perspective. More importantly, as we continued to grow across the country, we wanted someone who would help us realize our vision, while maintaining a commitment to our Maine roots. We are proud that he has served on our board for the past two years.
The environment is important to the people of Maine, and so is a thriving business community. For Maine businesses to thrive on a national scale, they need balanced and reliable energy options. Woodard & Curran is proud to play an active role in helping Maine balance these important issues.
Douglas J. McKeown is chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Woodard & Curran.