State program says it helped get 98 businesses off the ground last year

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POLAND — Bill Bouchard started his new heating, ventilation and air conditioning company after 20 years of working for others and seeing some things done right here, other things done right there and wanting to pull those elements together.

At his last southern Maine employer, Bouchard, 43, was a service department manager with more than a dozen technicians under him.

“The sales goals when I left was $1,250 per technician per day that they were supposed to be earning, and most of them were all hitting it,” he said. “It’s like, ‘OK, I’m helping this company become very successful, I can do this myself.'”

Integrity Services of Maine was born and last year, Bouchard was one of 127 businesses in Androscoggin County to receive free coaching and advice from the Maine Small Business Development Centers.

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Statewide, the program advised 1,454 clients, saved or created 661 jobs and helped start 98 business in 2017, according to an annual report released Tuesday.

In Androscoggin County, that impact was measured as 40 jobs saved or created and seven businesses started. In Franklin County, it was 22 jobs, three business, and in Oxford County, eight jobs and four new businesses. 

The program is made up of a collaboration among the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development and the University of Southern Maine.

Bouchard said business adviser Larry Giroux, based at the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, helped with details like sales projections as he started out in August 2016.

“It just helped me get everything set up in the beginning,” he said. “I knew how to deal with the clients and I knew how to do the work, but just more of the business side of it, getting all that set up.”

Integrity Services of Maine specializes in commercial work within an hour’s distance from Poland with most jobs in Lewiston-Auburn. The company staff is himself and two part-time employees.

Bouchard said he’s faced some new business challenges, such as making clients out of businesses he’d serviced before.

“I was optimistic that a lot of these businesses, once I started my own company, would definitely use us to take care of them,” he said. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. People worry, they get cold feet. It’s human nature, I understand that. ‘What if we go with this company and they don’t make it,’ it was nothing personal, they were looking out for their best interests and decided to stay with who they had.”

Instead, he’s built a new client base, gotten the company involved in community events and enjoyed the flexibility of setting his own schedule so he can go for a midday run with his wife, Tammie, or be there for their son’s track and cross-country events.

“If you’re working 9 to 5, you don’t make it,” Bouchard said.

Ryan Boucher, the owner of Sabattus House of Pizza, reached out to Giroux last year when he wanted to build an addition that will triple the seating and add a bar at his restaurant.

For that, he needed financing, and for that, he needed help.

“I was able to put down a pretty nice business plan, something I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own,” Boucher said.

The restaurant has been in his family a little more than 10 years. Construction started in December and he hopes to open the addition in the next few months. It’ll add jobs, though he’s not sure how many yet.

“(Giroux) helped tremendously,” Boucher said. “The biggest thing I’d say for people that want to do something, you have nothing to lose by talking to them. It’s a free service and they definitely help guide you in the right direction.”

kskelton@sunjournal.com

Bill Bouchard stands next to a HVAC unit he recently installed at a business in Lewiston. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Maine Small Business Development Centers in 2017, by the numbers

Clients advised:

Androscoggin County – 127

Oxford County – 49

Franklin County– 39

STATEWIDE – 1,454

Jobs created or saved:

Androscoggin County – 40

Oxford County – 8

Franklin County – 22

STATEWIDE – 661

Businesses started:

Androscoggin County – 7

Oxford County – 4

Franklin County – 3

STATEWIDE – 98

Capital generated:

Androscoggin County – $3.72 million

Oxford County – $320,746

Franklin County – $1.76 million

STATEWIDE: $44.04 million

SOURCE: SBDC annual report

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