Business incubator opening on Portland's waterfront in collaboration with Icelandic company

Markets Associated Press

A Maine company and an Icelandic businessman are partnering to establish a business incubator that will seek to grow new maritime commercial enterprises on Portland's waterfront.

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The company's leaders and Portland and state officials announced Thursday that the New England Ocean Cluster will seek to bring several business that commercialize new products related to the ocean under one roof. Thor Sigfusson, who runs the Iceland Ocean Cluster in Reykjavik, is working with South Portland-based maritime firm Soli DG Inc. to create the facility.

The Iceland Ocean Cluster works with 35 companies in Reykjavik, and the New England cluster has eight firms signed on so far, a Portland spokeswoman said. The company envisions a 30,000-square-foot space to get started and is in negotiations with the city for a location, the spokeswoman said.

The New England cluster's goal will be to create and spin off new companies and products, Portland city officials said. The cluster will focus on industries including food processing, boat building, energy production and pharmaceuticals, city officials said.

It's also a chance to capitalize on a business model that has proven successful in Iceland, said Patrick Arnold, president of Soli DG.

"This is an opportunity to link up with and learn from some of the best talent overseas while creating new opportunities in Maine and New England," Arnold said.

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The cluster's timetable is dependent on when it can secure a facility. The announcement comes four months after Gov. Paul LePage went to Iceland on a trade mission that included a stop at the Iceland Ocean Cluster, which he called an example of how "cluster development can result in economic growth."

Sigfusson called the facility "an environment where collaboration among our members happens naturally" and leads to business growth. Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said the Ocean Cluster "will bring international attention to Portland by stimulating private sector innovation and creativity on our waterfront."