A marine-related business incubator is about to move into a new Portland space with three of its member startups, a temporary address to allow room for growth while the incubator seeks a waterfront location for its permanent home.

New England Ocean Cluster will move from its Danforth Street location in the next month to one of three leased spaces in Portland, said majority owner Patrick Arnold. New England Ocean Cluster is modeled after a similar operation in Reykjavik, Iceland, where leaders of different companies, research institutions and even artists collaborated on innovative ways to use local resources, such as technology to apply fish skin to chronic wounds.

Arnold hasn’t decided which of the three spaces it will be, but he said it almost doesn’t matter.

“This isn’t the ocean cluster house I’ve been talking about, it’s just real estate,” he said. “I’m going to take my time to get the location of the house itself just right, to do it just right, but we’re still working, still growing, even now, and our members are, too.”

The incubator business employs three people now, Arnold said.

He said he had a deal ready to sign for a permanent home just three months after launching the business, but his business partner, Thor Sigfusson, who owns the Iceland Ocean Cluster in Reykjavik, vetoed it because it was not on the waterfront.


Arnold then began negotiating with Portland to renovate the second floor of an old municipal transit shed on the Maine State Pier, but could not reach an agreement on the terms of a long-term lease for the 30,000-square-foot space, which was in need of costly repairs.

Arnold is now working with two Portland commercial real estate developers to find a new incubator location. He said he is talking with several private pier owners about other locations, but he isn’t worried about the delays.

“We’re just going to bounce around Portland, growing as we go,” Arnold said.

The Iceland incubator was established in 2012 and has grown to host more than 50 businesses, such as Nordur Salt, which grew from one man working on a gourmet sea salt idea at a single desk to a full production company that was just sold to investors.

“There is no reason we can’t be doing that kind of thing right here,” Arnold told the audience at a University of Southern Maine talk organized as part of this week’s Arctic Council meetings. “We have got this tremendous resource right here. We just have to be smart about it.”


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