The TechMaine industry association is moving out of Westbrook this weekend and eyeing space in Portland, including the soon-to-be-vacated L.L. Bean factory store on Congress Street.
TechMaine opened its Westbrook offices five years ago. The high-tech industry group has been around since 1992, originally called the Maine Software Developers Association. The name was changed to TechMaine in 2007.
The Westbrook location was the first physical space the group had and gave area tech companies a place to meet, host user groups and share access to technology.
But the lease is up, and member companies have told the group they felt it would be more valuable to have TechMaine’s offices in downtown Portland, amid the cluster of technology firms, said Joe Kumiszcza, executive director. Several recent surveys reinforced that sentiment, Kumiszcza said.
“It came out pretty clear that TechMaine needs to be more in the hub,” Kumiszcza said. “We’re trying to find the right place that allows visibility to showcase that there’s a lot of stuff going on.”
Many of TechMaine’s member companies work out of state, he said, and don’t see a need to promote their business in Maine. That lack of visibility leads young people looking at working in technology to seek jobs out of state, he said, instead of exploring options here.
“The kids that are looking for a tech job are looking for companies with a buzz, because the industry is very vibrant,” Kumiszcza said. “They hear about the West Coast, or Boston. They don’t associate technology with what’s going on in Maine, and we’ve got some great organizations.”
Kumiszcza said he’s taken several TechMaine board members to look at the L.L. Bean space at 542 Congress St. Bean has said it plans to close its Portland store in September. The space would make TechMaine and its member companies extremely visible, said Kumiszcza.
The 20,000-square-foot location is being marketed at $10 a square foot, he said, which is very affordable. Member companies would need to help the nonprofit afford the $200,000 lease, Kumiszcza said. The space would have conference rooms, meeting space, white-board facilities and teleconferencing, he said. TechMaine’s Westbrook space is 3,200 square feet, so the L.L. Bean space would represent a jump in area and cost, Kumiszcza said.
The goal is to make an announcement on new TechMaine space at the group’s annual meeting in December, Kumiszcza said, and to be in the new offices early next year. In the meantime, TechMaine will be “virtual,” he said. Kumiszcza and the group’s other two employees will remain employed, and user group meetings will be held at the University of Southern Maine and at member companies’ offices.
Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: [email protected]