BANGOR — Husson University announced that Brien Walton, JD, EdD, director of the Richard E. Dyke Center for Family Business and assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Husson University’s College of Business, was named the first African-American chairperson of the Maine Venture Fund Board of Directors. Gov. Janet Mills of Maine appointed all of the board members.
“I am delighted Dr. Walton has agreed to chair the Maine Venture Fund,” said Mills. “I appointed Brien to the board because of his vast experience managing a technology-focused venture capital fund and his reputation for creating innovative business strategies for high potential companies. The depth of his knowledge and experience makes him an excellent choice to chair the Board and spearhead our efforts to help businesses grow and stay in Maine.”
“I want to thank Gov. Mills for appointing me to the Maine Venture Fund board and for the opportunity to serve the state,” said Dr. Walton. “I also want to thank my fellow directors for selecting me to chair the board. As the first African-American to serve as the chair of the Maine Venture Fund, I want to encourage entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds to start and grow businesses in Maine or to pursue careers as investment professionals in ways that stimulate regional and national economic growth.”
Funded by the state as a revolving “evergreen” fund, the Maine Venture Fund has invested over $25.2 million in small businesses since the fund’s inception in 1997 and has attracted over $200 million in outside investment to Maine, creating high-quality jobs across the state. The MVF has made 155 investments in over 80 companies, which has created over 900 jobs for Maine residents. MVF plans to further expand access to capital, especially for underrepresented founders.
“For more than 20 years, the Maine Venture Fund has helped many small businesses and entrepreneurs across our state turn dreams into reality,” said U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine and Angus King, I-Maine in a joint statement. “The MVF’s two decades of service have spurred economic innovation, supported good jobs, and made important contributions to local communities – but there are always new chapters to be written in its story. We congratulate Dr. Brien Walton for his appointment to this important role to bolster Maine’s economy, and we look forward to continuing our work in the Senate to promote economic development and job creation as well.”
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, Maine has 147,240 small businesses. That’s the equivalent of one small business for every nine people in our state. Here in Maine,
99.2 percent of all companies are small businesses.
As part of his work with the Maine Venture Fund, Walton will provide testimony to the state legislature about banking and financial ventures. He and the other 10 members of the Maine Venture Fund Board of Directors appointed by the Governor will be responsible for determining how the fund invests in businesses that have the potential for significant growth here in Maine.
Robert A. Clark, PhD, president of Husson University and a Chartered Financial Analyst, one of the highest designations of distinction in the investment management profession, agrees in the importance of growth. “Having a strong economy provides students with internship and job opportunities after they graduate,” said Clark. “Professional experience is an essential part of career success.”
“With the largest College of Business in the state, located in a brand new $17 million facility that will open in late August, Husson University is uniquely qualified to develop the business professionals of tomorrow,” said Marie Hansen, JD, PhD, SHRM-SCP, dean of Husson University’s College of Business and New England School of Communications. “Our graduates go on to jobs with Wall Street firms and get practical experience making investment decisions while they are in college. They benefit from Dr. Walton’s expertise particularly in the classes he teaches in entrepreneurship and business at Husson University. We value the real-world experience our faculty can bring to students so that they too can aspire to future leadership positions.”
Adding to Dean Hansen’s remarks, President Clark said, “Thanks to generous donations from James and Carol Carlisle and Joseph and Suzanne Cyr, students have the opportunity to manage an investment fund of over $1,000,000, with guidance from faculty, as part of their Husson education. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the next generation of Maine Venture Fund leaders were Husson University graduates.”
This is not the first time Dr. Walton has been called upon to contribute his expertise to a government initiative. In 2020, the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council and the
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reached out to Dr. Walton about a speaking opportunity. The two government organizations invited Walton to speak during the capstone portion of their Opportunity Zone webinar series called, “Bolstering Growth in Opportunity Zones: Leveraging Public and Private Resources.”
“We’re fortunate to have a leader of Dr. Walton’s caliber chairing our board of directors,” said Joe Powers, the Maine Venture Fund’s managing director. “We have developed an excellent rapport since he joined the board, and his extensive investment and business development experience make him the ideal person to help maximize the fund’s assets for the benefit of all Maine citizens, especially in this era of increased collaboration between state and federal government.”
Walton’s academic credentials are extensive. He earned his doctorate of education in organizational learning leadership with a concentration in leadership development from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. In addition, Walton has a juris doctorate in law from the University of the District of Columbia, a master of science in education with a concentration in workforce development from the University of Pennsylvania; a master of arts in educational technologies from Harvard University; and a master of laws in taxation from Georgetown University.
Dr. Walton also has extensive work experience. He is an award-winning strategic advisor on economic development and structured finance. Walton is also CEO of Acadia Capital Management, LLC, a strategic advisory firm that works directly with municipal leaders of economically distressed communities to create innovative funding pathways that eliminate poverty and facilitate sustainable growth.
Dr. Walton joined the Husson team as the director of the Richard E. Dyke Center for Family Business and as an assistant professor of entrepreneurship. The Center for Family Business at Husson University is dedicated to supporting and strengthening the 30,000-plus family-owned businesses in Maine. It serves family business owners, managers and employees through a variety of seminars and workshops.