Kristine Schuman has worked with both large and small Maine businesses to help connect them to the resources they need to become successful. Her expertise lie in site location, access to capital, marketing, start-up planning and growth strategies, workforce development, complying with state regulations, utilizing state programs, and working with local and regional partners.
Ms. Schuman is the Business Development Manager and TechPlace Director for the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority. In this role, Kristine has created TechPlace, a manufacturing business incubator, where she works with start-up and early stage companies and supports them in their desire to grow. Ms. Schuman provides TechPlace businesses with access to in-house business resources by coordinating workshops, seminars, courses, and networking events on topics relevant to business growth and development.
1. What kind of businesses incubate at Tech Place?
TechPlace is focused on incubating early stage and startup technology and manufacturing companies. Located at the Brunswick Landing, home of the former Naval Air Station Brunswick, TechPlace is capitalizing on the assets that are available on the Landing to support and mentor growing companies. Our target industries are aerospace, bioscience, composites, clean technologies, and IT. The companies at TechPlace have located here from garages and kitchen tables in the State of Maine as well as from out of state and out of the country.
2. What are the benefits of incubation? What services does Tech Place offer and how do you help businesses grow?
A company receives many benefits from being located in an incubator. Most importantly, they are surrounded by like-minded people who are all experiencing the same challenges and looking for the same services and opportunities, regardless of the industry they are in. The sharing of information around financing, marketing, mentoring, exporting, government contracting, hiring, etc. are topics that all companies encounter as they startup and grow. We like to refer to this organic sharing of information as ‘collisions of innovation’. TechPlace offers companies affordable office space that includes the use of conference rooms, classroom, kitchens, break room, and copier. Also available is small industrial space which is often difficult for startups to find. Many startup companies have a concept of a product, or a CAD design, and need to build a prototype. Having their own machinery and equipment to do this is often not feasible for early stage companies. TechPlace provides shared manufacturing space that includes a metal shop, wood shop, 3D printer, welding booth, and a fully equipped bio production lab. These facilities provide access to the machinery entrepreneurs need to build a prototype and make iterations until their product is the way they want it to be. They can then move into their own space within TechPlace, with their own equipment, and start production. While at TechPlace, companies have the opportunity to be connected to business resources that can help them develop their company and build their business network. These connections are often with TechPlace partners such as MEP, MTI, SBDC, SCORE, E2Tech, University of Maine, SMCC, Coastal Counties Workforce Inc., Town of Brunswick, Maine DECD, SolidWorks, and numerous others and are made through direct introductions or during Lunch & Learn programs. We want businesses to be successful during their time at TechPlace as well as when they move out on their own. These connections ensure that they will be.
3. What is the Economic Development Administrations "Make it in America" challenge? How does Tech Place fit into that?
As part of the redevelopment efforts of the former Base property, the MRRA had many large facilities that could accommodate larger companies. What we couldn’t accommodate was the startup company with a need for a single office space or small industrial space. The idea to provide incubator space to accommodate the demand for small office space and manufacturing space came out or this need. About 4 years ago, President Obama, during his State of the Union address, introduced his Make It In America challenge which was to create 10 manufacturing incubators across the United States. MRRA, together with Maine MEP and CCWI, responded to the RFP and were one of the 10 recipients of the Make it in America program. EDA provided the financial award to MRRA which allowed us to begin the creation of TechPlace. Maine MEP was awarded funding through NIST to create a supply chain database and CCWI was awarded funding through DOL to provide workforce training and development programs. MRRA, MEP, and CCWI continue to work together to provide area entrepreneurs with the resources they need to start up and grow their companies.
4. Is there some sort of qualification to rent incubator space at Tech Place?
To be a Member of TechPlace, you need to be an entrepreneur with a dream and a plan to create a new business in one of our target industries. Some businesses at TechPlace may be working to put together a business plan and are still doing their market research. Others may have been working from home for a couple of years and now have a need for a little more space, a more professional setting, want to hire employees, and grow their business. TechPlace can offer support and opportunities to all entrepreneurs no matter where they are in their development stage.