Matt Jacobson, a former Republican candidate for governor with more than 20 years of sales and marketing experience, has been tapped to lead the state’s efforts to promote lobster around the world.

The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative has hired Jacobson as its new Executive Director, the group announced Tuesday. He replaces Marianne Lacroix, who has been acting executive director.

Jacobson joins the collaborative at a time when the group is ramping up its efforts to stoke global appetite for lobster. As harvests have hit record levels in recent years, the industry has seen successive years of declining prices.

Maine lobstermen caught 125.9 million pounds of lobster in 2013, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources, down slightly from 2012, but up over the past five years. Price per pound for lobster averaged $2.89 in 2013, down from as much as $4.63 a pound in 2005.

The Collaborative, formed in December, has an 11-member board made up of lobstermen, dealers, members of the public and state agency representatives. Its $750,000 budget, which is projected to grow to $2.2 million in 2016, is funded by a surcharge on licenses issued to lobstermen, processors and dealers. The collaborative replaced the Lobster Promotion Council, a smaller group that had been in place since 1991 and had an annual budget of $350,000.

Last year, the fishery obtained the Marine Stewardship Council’s Sustainable Seafood Certification. The designation certifies that it is using ecologically sound practices.

With the increased budget and the sustainability certification “the stars are all aligned” to grow the market, Jacobson said. “We have a huge opportunity now, as people care more about where their food is from, how it’s caught,” said Jacobson, 53, a father of two who lives in Cumberland.

Most recently, Jacobson was executive vice president at Oxford Networks, which is based in Lewiston. He also worked for the company and its predecessor, Resilient V, for two years before taking a buyout in 2012. Since then, he has been spending time with his family.

From 2006 to 2011, Jacobson was President and chief executive of Maine & Company, a non-profit consultancy which recruited companies to Maine which now employ more than 5,000 people across the state. Between 2009 and 2010, he was among seven Republicans who sought the nomination for Governor. But he lost in the primary election.

From 2000 to 2005, Jacobson was assistant vice president at the Canadian National Railway, where he executed the company’s Asian strategy, and built its intermodal business into a $1 billion a year enterprise. From 1996 to 2000, he was President and COO of the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad.

In a statement issued Tuesday, public officials praised his qualifications.

“His successes in business leadership, international relations, and marketing make him a perfect fit for this important position,” said Patrick Keliher, Commissioner of the DMR and a board member of the collaborative.

Gov. Paul LePage added, “Matt has a track record of accomplishment in business growth and development, and we look forward to his efforts to lead the Maine lobster industry into a new era of marketing and profitability.”

Jennifer Van Allen can be contacted at 791-6313 or at:

[email protected]

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