Living and working in Maine comes with many benefits, including gorgeous scenery, abundant recreation opportunities, diverse cultural events, practically non-existent traffic jams and a tight-knit business community.
On Tuesday night, more than 100 interns participating in the Libra Foundation’s Summer in Maine program got a firsthand taste of how easy it is to connect with the state’s movers and shakers. The program held its annual dinner at the picturesque Portland Country Club in Falmouth, where more than 100 of the Summer in Maine interns had a chance to network with dozens of CEOs and top executives.
The program promotes Maine internship opportunities and then provides each year’s crop of interns with recreation and networking events. The program is run by Sean Duggan, a Libra Future Fund trustee, Erik Hayward, president of the Libra Future Fund, and Tyler Hobbs, co-director of Summer in Maine.
“This program started in 2006 with just eight interns,” Hayward told the crowd during dinner. “This year we have nearly 150 interns in our program and 14 employers.”
When he took the microphone, Duggan pointed out to the interns the value of the night’s event.
“The CEO of your company is here tonight,” Duggan told the crowd. “That’s a big deal because you won’t find that in New York City or Boston.”
The evening’s first keynote speaker was Bill Ryan, the retired chairman of TD Bank, part owner of the Maine Red Claws and trustee for numerous organizations, including the Libra Foundation.
“I don’t think I got to eat at the Portland Country Club until I was 40 years old,” Ryan said. “So lucky you.”
Ryan, who was full of jokes and funny quips, encouraged the interns to determine what makes the people at the company they’re working for successful.
“As you look (around the room) at these senior executives, you’ll notice it’s not good looks that got us where we are,” Ryan joked.
When Idexx CEO Jonathan Ayers delivered his keynote address, he talked about the value of internships.
“We realized interns can get real work done and we have a lot of work to do,” Ayers said. “So you have to realize we wait all year long for the interns to come.”
This summer Idexx is employing 70 interns.
“Unless you’re independently wealthy, you will be working for much of your life,” Ayers said. “It behooves you to find something that is fun and interesting to you.”
During dinner, I sat at a table that featured Ryan and Morris Fisher, President of CBRE|Boulos Property Management. We were joined by interns Daniel Gerges, who’s working at Idexx, Rachel Blomberg, who’s working at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Elizabeth Hall, who’s working at CIEE, Keelin O’Connor, who’s working at Idexx, Nick Pellow, who’s working at CIEE, and Ruth Hawley, who’s working at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.
“The real-world experience you get (with an internship) is something you can’t get through your general education,” Gerges told me.
Gerges graduated this spring from the University of Maine in Orono and will begin medical school at Tufts University in the fall. This is his fourth year participating in the Summer in Maine internship program.
Michael Dubyak, the president and CEO of Wright Express, told me that he’s committed to increasing internship opportunities in information technology and science for students in Maine. He mentioned that he and other business leaders are working on a related initiative, which will be formally announced later this summer, to promote internships and college majors in information technology and science.
“We think internships are a big part of keeping people in the IT sector,” Dubyak told me.
George Hogan, who is the chief information officer at Wright Express, hopes more Maine students will consider careers in IT.
“They’re good-paying jobs, which is why I’m such a proponent of getting Maine kids into those jobs,” Hogan told me.
“For us it offers a new perspective and a fresh set of eyes on what we’re doing,” said Shawn Gorman, senior vice president of brand communications at L.L. Bean and great-grandson of Leon Leonwood Bean.
He then added, “We love to see young people moving to Maine.”
Melissa Duron, who serves as a trustee for the Libra Future Fund, told me that in addition to the internship program the fund also offers a grant program for entrepreneurs ages 18 to 29 who are looking to start a business in Maine.
“I’m a transplant,” Duron told me. “I think Maine is a really great place to live.”
The Libra Foundation hopes that the Summer in Maine program will provide students with the experience, connections and desire to find a job in the state after graduation.
As Hobbs told the crowd: “I’d encourage you all to consider Maine as a place of employment.”
Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: