December 08, 2019
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Signs of success. Startup companies outgrow Orono incubator program.

Community Author: Evan Richert
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Updated:

ORONO — Three growing companies have recently expanded out of the UpStart Center for Entrepreneurship in Orono.

“We lose tenants when companies outgrow us, and that’s exactly what we want to happen –  especially when they then expand into the Bangor region,” said David Milan, chair of the board of directors for the Bangor Target Area Development Corporation, which owns and manages the center.

All three companies incubated at the Center and now are expanding their operations in the Bangor area:

A.I.T. Bridges, a spinout of the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, has moved its seven full-time employees into the former Lemforder manufacturing plant in Brewer, where they are meeting growing demand for composite bridges. A.I.T. started at what is now the UpStart Center in 2009. The company has built 30 bridges in nine states and presently is working on five more bridge contracts.

“For an early engineering startup, the UpStart Center is perfect because it has the facilities needed to design and prototype technologies and products,” said Ken Sweeney, president and chief engineer of A.I.T. Bridges.

Cerahelix, which in 10 years at the Center has moved from basic R&D to a fully commercialized industrial filter product that combines DNA technology with ceramic chemistry, has recently expanded their production to the Bangor Innovation Center on Johnson Street in Bangor. Last May, the company, which currently has 18 employees, announced a breakthrough contract with one of the world’s largest producers of personal health care products. Cerahelix maintains their R&D and product testing operations at the UpStart Center.

“We compete against innovative water treatment technologies from all over the globe,” said Susan MacKay, CEO and co-founder of Cerahelix. “And the proximity of the UpStart Center to the University of Maine has enabled us to leverage critical resources at key moments in our commercialization lifecycle that we otherwise could not have afforded.”

Box of Maine spent 18 months at the Center growing their startup online mail-order business that ships curated gift boxes filled with products made in Maine to customers around the world. Sales grew rapidly, and the company now has added a retail component and relocated to a dedicated space in Old Town.

“The collective mentorship and guidance I received at the UpStart Center really helped me scale my business and allowed me to grow our vision for Box of Maine,” said Daniel Finnemore, the company’s founder.

“We are really proud of the success of our incubator tenants and graduates at the UpStart Center and of their commitment to scale their businesses in the Bangor region,” said Veena Dinesh, the University of Maine’s director of business incubation.

 About the UpStart Center for Entrepreneurship (formerly known as the Target Technology Center)

The UpStart Center in Orono is a partnership between the Bangor Target Area Development Corporation (BTADC), a nonprofit economic development organization, and the University of Maine. BTADC owns and manages the Center, and the University of Maine’s incubator program provides the programs and coaching services to startup businesses and organizes events at the Center. The Center typically hosts five to eight startup businesses that are part of UMaine’s incubator program at any one time, as well as other technology, economic development, engineering and design companies. The UpStart Center is a founding member of UpStart Maine (upstartmaine.org), a coalition of Bangor region programs that are helping innovation-driven startups through different stages of commercialization. Other members of the coalition are Bangor Innovation Center, Top Gun (Bangor region), Big Gig, Scratchpad, Foster Student Center for Innovation, CoVort Co-work and MaineStream Finance.