Inc. 5,000 List highlights diversity of Maine’s economy

I reported on Tuesday that 13 Maine companies made Inc. magazine’s list of the country’s 5,000 fastest-growing private companies.

A few names were no surprise. I knew CashStar, Vets First Choice and Putney — a digital gift card provider, an online pharmacy for veterinary practices, and a pharmaceutical company developing generic drugs for pets, respectively — are all crushing it in their respective niches.

But some of the other Maine companies on the Inc. 5,000 List were a surprise. Not because they’re not great companies, but because they’re not in typical industries — like biotech or app development — that many equate with the explosive growth necessary to make it on such a list list.

Take Bar Harbor Foods, which has made the list seven times — seven! — by constantly posting impressive revenue numbers by selling cans of clam chowder and wild herring fillets. I called Mike Cote, who in 2003 purchased the business founded nearly a century ago as the East Machias Canning Co., to ask him about his secret. I haven’t heard back, but will update you when I do.

There were also three IT management companies on the list — Tilson Technology and Winxnet, both in Portland, and ITS in Bar Mills. There was a data security firm, a health care provider, an electricity provider, and several marketing-type firms.

All this is to say that the companies showing explosive growth are not always the ones we expect to be showing explosive growth. This is a sentiment my friend and fellow BDN blogger Jess Knox broached in one of his recent columns, “Growth is a Matter of Attitude.”

We shouldn’t assist only the companies targeting industries where calling yourself “scalable” is like a secret handshake that brings instant success. We should be supporting all types of companies, and the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, because no ones knows where the next big Maine success story will be.

Jess puts it well: “Growth comes from the attitude of the entrepreneur. Nurturing that attitude is critically important.”



Whit Richardson

About Whit Richardson

Whit Richardson is Business Editor at the Bangor Daily News. He blogs about Maine business, entrepreneurs and the economy.