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

(Continued from page 1)

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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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On the advice of a guidance counselor, he and his family looked into boarding schools. Poliquin got into Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and supplemented his scholarship to the school by working in the library and washing windows for faculty members.

He went to Harvard on a scholarship, worked in the dining hall busing tables on Sunday mornings, and cleaned an office building in Brattle Square.

For job interviews, he borrowed a suit from his roommate. His father mailed him the dress shoes he had worn at his wedding 40 years before.

Poliquin took the job with Harris Bank, spent a few years there and then took a job in New York City with a consulting firm that evaluated corporate pension funds and matched them with investment companies to manage the money.

In 1981, he joined a small investment management firm called Avatar Associates. The firm was managing about $35 million of other people’s money, said Poliquin. When he left in 1996, he was the company’s third-largest stockholder and a managing partner, and the company was managing $5 billion.

In New York at the same time was Jane Carpenter, a Waterville native and a good friend whom he had dated off and on over the years.
 She was working at the Brooklyn Museum’s lab in art restoration. Their time in New York overlapped for about five years, and the relationship became serious.

They got married in Phippsburg in 1989, 17 years after they met. The couple moved back to Maine, and Poliquin traveled back and forth to New York, still running Avatar with his partners. After their son, Sam, was born, Poliquin worked more and more from home.

In early 1992, Jane and her father drowned during a family vacation. Sam was 16 months old. Poliquin spent the next half-year making sure Sam was well and safe, and figuring out how to be a single parent, with help from his family.

Poliquin worked with Avatar for a few more years, with his mother and father watching Sam overnight when he made quick trips to New York.

He invested in small companies in Maine, from software firms to a bookstore. About five years ago, he started a real estate firm, Dirigo Holdings. “It was a way I could do something different and manage a process with different parts,” he said.

One of his projects was the ill-fated Stinson Seafood cannery redevelopment in Bath, which Poliquin wanted to make into a marina and condo complex.
 The city never approved rezoning for the project, and an arsonist torched the property.

In the Popham Woods project, he said, he was told late in the process by state regulators that he would have to change the plans because of wetlands, adding a full year to the process of obtaining permits.

It’s a combination of experiencing such frustrations and knowing kids who want to return to Maine but don’t have jobs that spurred him to run for governor, said Poliquin.

While campaigning, Poliquin pushes the need to restructure the state’s permitting process and streamline government in general.
He opposes borrowing to supplement programs, would institute ways to measure the performance of government programs, and would hire professional managers to run departments, if elected.

“We need someone who’s got guts. Someone who’s not worried about the next election,” said Poliquin. “Someone who is a manager, who’s been successful with financial dealings, someone who understands the problems, someone who can lead this state and rally the forces, whether it be the populace or the Legislature, to do the right thing and fix this.”

Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

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