Mike Duguay has a long history of economic development and nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit in central Maine. That’s why he joined Thomas College as Executive Director of Harold Alfond® Institute for Business Innovation here in 2017.
The Institute was established in order to create a signature internship program for Thomas College students; a diverse professional development program for regional employers; and, to establish an entrepreneurial and innovative ecosystem for central Maine.
“My role is to oversee the creation and management of the programs we’ve developed,” says Mike. “More importantly, perhaps, I interact with students and businesses on a daily basis who are looking to take an idea and turn it into a business or expand the one that they already have.”
Mike’s primary responsibility is to help students and businesses with idea generation, customer discovery, market validation, agile, lean, and other areas. Besides the one-to-one resource Mike provides for budding entrepreneurs, the Institute has also developed a broad and diverse selection of professional development programs designed to assist the incumbent workforce in central Maine gain valuable work skills so that they can deploy them immediately in the workplace.
The Institute has already trained more than 200 employees from 60+ employers within central Maine. Plus, the Institute is providing area businesses with their future skilled workforce by placing Thomas College students as interns while they are still in school, in hopes that many of these students will stay here in central Maine and continue their careers.
“The Institute has been blessed by having an array of alumni who have been involved in building the program and assisting it grow within the community,” notes Mike. “In fact, all three area Chamber of Commerce Directors, Kim Lindlof ’94 (Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce), Katie Doherty ’10 (Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce) and Jason Gayne M.S. ’14, M.B.A. ’17 (Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce) are advisory council members and Thomas College alumni.”
There are several Harold Alfond® Institute for Business Innovation programs that assist Thomas College students and area residents – and among those, there are a few highlights:
- Sponsorship and administration of the Top Gun program. Created by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs, the Top Gun program partners with a cohort of area businesses, putting them through a 15-week, immersive bootcamp-style program to take their business to the next level.
- Professional Development programs run every fall and spring. The Institute offers several instructional classes to existing central Maine employees on topics ranging from leadership to supervision to teamwork to lean process improvement. These courses are run by credentialed professionals in their fields and have been kept affordable to give smaller businesses in the region opportunities for world-class employee training.
- Special events such as Converge and Create and Plugged In. Converge and Create Weekend has become one of the state’s and central Maine’s signature annual innovation and entrepreneurial summits, bringing in experts throughout industry and government that are doing leading-edge work in these areas. Plugged In is the forum that the Institute has created to expose significant, thought-provoking ideas and breakthroughs around topics, like cybersecurity, that will shape central Maine and our economy in the years to come.
Mike wants local employers and entrepreneurs to know that Institute staff can assist them and their companies with developing innovation plans, along with the appropriate tools, to explore ideas and determine their marketability and how to monetize them. Also, staff are available to work one-to-one with students and individuals who have ideas for new products or businesses and want to chart paths to implementation.
Looking into the future of the Institute, Mike and staff are hard at work to continue bringing great programs to Central Maine.
“I’m very optimistic as to what is around the corner for the Institute, Thomas College, and central Maine,” says Mike. “I’m excited about the potential of expanding and strengthening the programming that the Institute has already begun to be recognized for delivering, while having been in existence for just three years. I believe that some more, very exciting programming is coming soon, as we see new content and delivery platforms becoming available and accessible to more people and businesses every day.”
This article was originally published in the Winter/Spring 2020 Thomas Magazine.