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The Maine Trek Covers Many Paths

Neither rain nor sleet nor snow nor gloom of night could stay these Trekkers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. For the weekend of February 23, eleven HBS students, three Sloanies, one BU business school student and a few lucky partners left the confines of Boston and enjoyed the winter wonderland known as Maine, and its many job opportunities. One cocktail party, two dinners, three company tours and about a hundred businesspeople later, everyone returned to Boston, some in time for a spin at the Priscilla Ball, others waiting until Sunday’s storm to get into their cars and head south.
The weekend began with a cocktail party at the offices of Via, a marketing/consulting firm in downtown Portland. Sixty local tech businesspeople and one local television crew were on hand for the event, where chips and beer mixed with conversation about lifestyle (excellent) and opportunities (many) in Maine. After a quick meeting with the president of Via and a welcome from Maine’s Governor, the group moved on to a few more cocktails and dinner at a private home. Hosted by the Zilkha family, trekakers were joined at their tables by venture capitalists, non-profit leaders, investment bankers, someone from biotech, and the Governor and First Lady. Dinner was accompanied by just enough snow to make the city look like a postcard, but not enough to keep people from venturing out into Portland’s nightlife. In addition to discovering the city’s thriving economy, many trekkers sampled its delicious local beer.

At dawn of a soon-to-be sunny Saturday, everyone left the hotel and headed west, away from the water but toward Sabre Yachts, makers of luxury sail and power boats. From fiberglass molds through to the addition of 6,000 pound lead keels, we got a view from below the hull of the process, and everyone decided that a return trip was necessary, as soon as we could all afford one of their products.

Next stop was DeLorme Mapping, one of today’s leaders in data compression and mapping technology. Time was spent gawking at Eartha, the world’s largest rotating globe, set inside a huge glass lobby you can’t miss as you drive north through Yarmouth. Following Eartha was a virtual tour of DeLorme’s newest product, an excellent three-dimensional topographic map package that will be on every hiker’s handheld or PC sometime soon. You won’t want to leave home without it.

Our final tour stop on Saturday was at Fairchild Semiconductor, whose headquarters are in South Portland. Founded by the “Traitorous Eight,” Fairchild is the parent of more major high tech firms than you can imagine. They also let you wear cool clean room suits and booties and take air showers. We were a little disappointed that the suits weren’t as colorful as those worn in the Intel ads, but the tour was an interesting one regardless.

Tours complete, we headed off to lunch with another group of Maine business leaders, from LL Bean and Bank North to McKinsey, Unum and another VC firm. Via was again ably represented by Christina Merrill, president of the HBS club of Maine. More conversation about lifestyle (still excellent) and opportunities (still many) was carried on, until the topic changed to what people were wearing to Priscilla, at which point people started to get ready to go.

The people who stayed had the afternoon to themselves, then met for an excellent dinner at Fore Street, one of Maine’s great restaurants (featured in this month’s Saveur, for those who are interested). Highly recommended for those of you planning a visit before leaving New England.

At the end of the day, the trip was a great chance to learn about the surprising number of opportunities there are in Maine, and to meet a host of people who were interested in telling us about them. It may not be where you take your first job, but when you’re ready for an affordable home, access to the outdoors, a great place to raise your family and more restaurants than traffic, Maine might be just the place you want to trek.

March 26, 2001
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