May 25, 2010

Profile: A business-friendly environment tops Poliquin’s agenda

The Georgetown Republican is described as a decisive leader.

By Matt Wickenheiser
Staff Writer

GEORGETOWN — Bruce Poliquin’s first job after he graduated from Harvard with an economics degree was with Harris Bank in Chicago. His annual pay was $11,000.

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Poliquin says he learned early what businesses need to succeed.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Nov. 1, 1953
FAMILY: One son
OCCUPATION: Business owner and manager
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in economics, Harvard

11th in a series profiling the candidates for governor. Bruce Poliquin will chat with readers live at noon today at


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What the job lacked in pay – even in 1976 dollars – it made up for in experience, said Poliquin. He worked for a trust division of the bank, and part of his job was talking to small-business owners in the Midwest about investing their pension funds.

Slaughterhouses, tool and die shops, electroplating businesses, carburetor manufacturers – Poliquin met with the owners, toured the operations and learned what made the businesses successful.

“It was a tremendous learning experience on not only how good businesses are managed, but what’s an environment that creates an opportunity for a business to succeed,” said Poliquin. “Businesses are most successful when they’re in a regulatory environment, in a cost structure, where they can be successful. That’s why Maine has such a horrible economy, and why our kids are leaving.”

Poliquin, of Georgetown, is running for governor in the Republican primary. As he campaigns in a field against six other GOP candidates, he hits relentlessly on recurring themes.

He stresses his management experience as an investment banker who analyzed companies and pension funds, contending that’s what Maine needs in a governor.

He talks about the state’s poor business environment, and how he would address it. And he raises his work with Maine youths, and the need to create jobs here so graduates can stay here, or return home if they wish.

He has no political experience, but that’s common in this year’s Republican primary. He sometimes sticks to his campaign’s talking points to the level where, in debates and forums, he doesn’t answer questions.

He has funded much of his campaign, contributing more than $550,000 to a total of $860,000, according to the latest state records.
“Putting my own money in is the right thing to do,” he said. “Any enterprise I’ve ever gotten involved with, I’ve had a commitment to it.”

People who have worked with him and know him describe a straightforward man who absorbs information and then acts.

“He’s a real straight shooter. Basically, when he says he’s going to do something, it gets done,” said John Moody, the construction manager who is working on Poliquin’s housing development in Phippsburg, Popham Woods.

Moody said Poliquin  didn’t have much experience in construction when he first talked to Moody about working on the project. Poliquin asked for advice, listened and took in the information, Moody said.

Julie Moss of Yarmouth served on North Yarmouth Academy’s board of directors with Poliquin for about eight years, and he was president of the board for four of them.

“The thing that struck me the most was that he was very solicitive of everybody’s opinion, he wanted everyone’s input before he made a decision,” said Moss. “But once he made a decision, he made it. He was sure of himself, but very respectful of everybody on the board, and wanted them to feel part of the process.”

Poliquin grew up in Waterville. His mother was a nurse and his father was a teacher. His father held other jobs at the same time, refereeing basketball, umpiring baseball, running lobster pounds, renting beach cottages.

The family often talked about business ideas and plans, said Poliquin, and he was encouraged early on to work.

During winter, he would help shovel out people who had to get to work. He cut lawns in the summer, and saved enough money to buy his own metallic green stingray bike, with a banana seat.

When he was young, he became interested in going to Harvard.

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