AUGUSTA — The city’s longtime development director has been hired away by a natural gas company planning to bring a pipeline into Augusta and the rest of the Kennebec Valley.

Michael Duguay, who has overseen development in the city for the last 13 years, will start his new job as director of business development for Summit Utilities in two weeks. He’ll work out of the firm’s planned new Augusta offices.

Colorado-based Summit Utilities is the parent company of Summit Natural Gas of Maine, one of two competing natural gas firms looking to develop a natural gas pipeline system in the region.

The 46-year-old Duguay, who lives in Waterville, said he has had other job offers previously but always declined them, thinking he wanted to work for the city of Augusta for the rest of his career.

But he said the Summit job is a perfect match for him and will give him the opportunity to be involved with the biggest economic development project he’s ever worked on.

“This is the first time I’ve ever felt there was more of a perfect match for me. It’s a dream come true,” Duguay said. “What I think Summit is going to be able to do in the Kennebec Valley is probably the biggest project I’ll ever be associated with, making businesses more competitive and reducing the cost of energy for residents and businesses. I didn’t think I’d ever want to work anywhere else (than the city of Augusta). But the integrity of the company and its principals, what they intend to do here, and their track record, just spoke to me.”

Mayor William Stokes said Deputy Development Director Matt Nazar will fill in for Duguay until a new development director is hired. City Manager William Bridgeo informed councilors of Duguay’s pending departure Thursday night.

“Their gain is our loss — they’re getting a good man,” Stokes said of Duguay. “Mike has been a terrific boon to the city. He’s widely respected, not just in the city, but also among businesses. Summit saw what we’ve all known. He’s a wonderful hire for them.”

Duguay’s time in Augusta has included the expansion of Marketplace at Augusta, construction of Augusta Crossing shopping center, expansions at Kenway Corp. and J.S. McCarthy printers, the redevelopment of the former Sanmina-SCI plant into the Central Maine Commerce Center, demolition of the former Statler Tissue, creation of a regional entrepreneurship program, the under way construction of MaineGeneral Medical Center regional hospital in north Augusta and the struggles and recent revitalization of the downtown.

Summit officials said they tapped Duguay for the director of business development position because of his knowledge of the region’s businesses and municipalities.

The firm plans to build a natural gas pipeline from Windsor through Augusta to serve the Kennebec Valley, including Gardiner, Madison and Skowhegan. Construction would start in the spring.

Duguay will work out of an office Summit plans to open at 45 Memorial Circle in early December.

Competitor Maine Natural Gas, a Brunswick-based subsidiary of Iberdrola USA, which also owns Central Maine Power Co., has also proposed to build a natural gas pipeline in the Kennebec Valley, and has already started laying some pipe in the Augusta area.

Summit is still awaiting unconditional approval from the state Public Utilities Commission to serve customers in Maine, something company officials anticipate receiving by the end of the year.

“We’re ready to move on our plans to construct the system,” Eric M. Earnest, chief operating officer of Summit, said in a news release. “Mike’s extensive knowledge and understanding of the business community and the municipalities throughout the region are important assets for us to have in order for us to best serve the people of the Kennebec Valley.”

Last year Duguay, in his role with the city, worked with Kennebec Valley Gas Company — a smaller firm that Summit is in the process of acquiring — and recommended a tax increment financing deal for the firm. The tax break was later approved by city councilors.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]