PopMechFeature_Jan2015

A screenshot of Popular Mechanics’ digital edition. The Associated Press

Portland’s startup community is basking in the warmth of some national attention this week.

Popular Mechanics has picked Portland, Maine, as one of the top “Startup Cities” in the country.

In its February edition, on newsstands now, the magazine’s editors chose 14 cities as “the best new places to start a business in America.” Portland is at No. 4, behind St. Louis, Missouri; Asheville, North Carolina; and Oakland, California.

Lists like this may be a dime a dozen, but they do shine a positive light on Portland and the state in general. Popular Mechanics has more than 1 million print subscribers. That’s a lot of eyeballs that now associate Portland, Maine, with “startup central.”

“There’s no one thing that’s going to make a difference, but it is yet another piece of the puzzle of showing that entrepreneurship and innovation is really thriving in Maine,” said Don Gooding, executive director of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development. “So you put that together with all the recognition of individual companies and other pieces of recognition of excellence in Maine over last couple years and the cumulative effect is people around the country are really starting to take notice of what’s going on here.”

The Popular Mechanics feature is also a nice antidote to the lists where Maine is not shown in the best light, like Forbes’ list of the best states in which to business. Maine ranked No. 49 in the most recent Forbes list.

<editor’s soapbox>The article does have some errors, however, the most glaring being a claim that the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern Maine awards $25,000 a year to the winner of its business-plan competition. While USM does have a Center for Entrepreneurship, though it’s not very active these days, it hasn’t offered a business plan competition since 2011. It’s easy to understand how the writer was misled, though. The center still advertises the business plan competition, along with a grand award of $25,000, on its website. Still, the error could easily have been caught by some simple fact checking.</editor’s soapbox>

The print feature is also accompanied by an online video, embedded below, that features several members of Portland’s business community, including Jess Knox, the main organizer of Maine Startup and Create Week and statewide innovation hub coordinator for Blackstone Accelerates Growth; Andrew Volk and his wife Brianna, owners of the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club; and Jason Ryan, founder of the Open Bench Project.

The print and online features are slightly different, but both focus heavily on Portland’s startup scene in the context of our now-well-known foodie movement. In fact, the online feature claims our startup scene is “beer-powered.”

“We expect big things out of Portland’s startups over the next year or so, regardless of its size,” writes Joe Bargmann, Popular Mechanics‘ special projects editor.

While those of us keeping tabs on Maine’s startups likely think this is old news, it is nice to know others are paying attention.