Brittany Hyde (left to right), Anna Cockrell, Sascha Deri and Nate Wildes C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

On Wednesday the Brunswick Downtown Association organized four Brunswick-based entrepreneurs to speak at Flight Deck Brewing about their experience, the state of Maine’s economic growth and some of the roadblocks businesses are facing.

The event was led by the Executive Director of Live and Work in Maine Nate Wildes, who is also the co-founder of the brewery. The speakers included Practice Administrator at Casco Bay Dental Anna Cockrell, the CEO of bluShift Aerospace Sashca Deri and the owner of Spark Cycling Studio Brittany Hyde.

The four entrepreneurs fall under the category of “boomerangs,” a term used to describe those who have left Maine, only to return at a later point in their life.

“Maine’s had a heck of a decade, frankly,” Wildes said to the audience at the brewery’s outdoor patio. “There’s a lot happening in our state.”

According to a 2019 Portland Press Herald report, between 2010 and 2019 industries such as craft brewing, dining, hospitality, lobster and cannabis all either exploded or saw steady growth in the state.

The last 10 years brought more than 140 new business entities to Brunswick Landing and Topsham Commerce Park — sites formerly part of a Navy base that closed in 2011 — as well as a renewed focus on revitalizing the Cooks Corner area.


But as Wildes noted, labor shortages and the aging population remain significant issues for many businesses statewide.

The audience at Flight Deck Brewing for the Brunswick Downtown Association business-owner discussion. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

Wildes said that while he believes “boomerangs” are not the only solution to the state’s economic barriers, the demographic of people could potentially help with the labor shortage.

For Deri, the return to Maine was sparked by an opportunity to be closer to family and from the Maine Technical Institute, which offered him funding and grants to bring his company to the state. In January, Deri’s aerospace company became the first in Maine to launch a commercial rocket and the first in the world to launch a commercial rocket using bio-derived fuel.

“Maine is actually a perfect place for doing a special type of polar launches over the ocean,” said Deri. “You can’t do this anywhere else on the eastern seaboard.”

“For us, it was about the style of practice that we wanted to have as business owners, for us community was extremely important,” said Cockrell, who moved back to Maine from Oregon to take over the dental practice she went to as a child.  “Here in Brunswick, we get to collaborate with some really great nonprofits like Oasis and Tedford and Midcoast Hunger.”

After growing up in West Bath and then moving to Massachusetts, Hyde said that she relocated to Portland and then to Brunswick, also attracted by the community, to launch her cycling studio which first opened on Saturday. She said she is hoping to reach a new, older demographic outside of Portland.

Wildes added that, in addition to retaining the “boomerangs,” the state also needs to focus on welcoming folks who are new to the community from all walks of life.

“There is no silver bullet,” Wiles said, noting that a combination of international and domestic migration, affordable housing, retaining college graduates and getting adults to stay in the workforce could help with the shortage. “There’s not one thing that works, so we’ve got to do everything at once.”

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