WATERVILLE — Collaborative Consulting, a technology company from Burlington, Massachusetts, plans to create up to 200 jobs in the next few years in the city, which edged out Bangor as the site of a “delivery center.”

Gov. Paul LePage, speaking at Colby College where the announcement was made Wednesday morning, said the effort is a direct result of government, educational institutions and business working together. “It’s not a small feat,” he said.

“Investment capital will go where it’s welcomed and stays where it’s appreciated, and that is easier said than done,” said LePage, a former Waterville mayor.

Collaborative Waterville will open in January in the Hathaway Creative Center on Water Street with 20 employees. It aims to have 50 employees in another year and up to 200 over the next three to four years.

Colby College, meanwhile, has pledged student internships with the company, as well as faculty and staff training and other professional development. Thomas College in Waterville and Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield also will work to create opportunities for technology and business skills education for students, officials said at Wednesday’s event.

“Waterville is an ideal fit for us because of its dynamic community, exceptional workforce and impressive educational infrastructure focused on innovation,” said William Robichaud, Collaborative Consulting’s founder, president and chief executive officer. Many of his company’s clients have Northeast roots and will benefit from the center’s proximity to and alliance with Colby College, he said.

About 300 state and local officials, as well as business leaders and Colby students and staff members, attended Wednesday’s conference, held at Page Commons in Cotter Union. Colby President David Greene, Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro and Robichaud also spoke. Also at the news conference were Greg Powell, CEO of the Alfond Foundation, and Laurie LaChance, president of Thomas College.

Isgro said Robichaud has a passion for employees and focuses on quality of education for those workers and the product they produce.

“The message today is clear,” Isgro told the crowd. “I think now is the time to place your bets and investment in the city of Waterville.”

Robichaud, who received a standing ovation, said his company conducted a nationwide search and market analysis to find a site for his company, which will bring “meaningful and challenging jobs” to the region. The company says it will deliver business and technology services to provide businesses “cost-efficient and solution-focused results.” It already had posted job listings on its website Wednesday, including those in Waterville for a senior business analyst and a software engineer.

“One of Collaborative’s missions is to create long-term career advancing job opportunities in the communities we’re in,” Robichaud said.

The goal is to have 200 people working in a space in three or four years, he said.

“But the reality is, it could take five,” Robichaud said. “We have a goal of three or four, but it depends on the market, on clients and the ability to get senior people.”

Robichaud said after the announcement that the company is in the process of hiring its senior staff, experienced developers and managers, and next will set up a training class in mid- to late February. He hopes to have another class next summer.

CHOOSING WATERVILLE

Robichaud said when he met with Greene a few weeks ago to discuss further the proposal to come to Waterville, the city was Robichaud’s second choice. The first was Bangor.

Greene is “a major reason — an enormous reason — why Collaborative Consulting is here,” Robichaud said. “The man wouldn’t take ‘no.'”

LePage also praised Greene.

“Colby has been a friend to the city of Waterville and it’s been a good partner for 200 years, but this president has brought it to a new level,” LePage said.

Robichaud also worked on the proposal with Peter DelGreco, president and CEO of Maine & Co., of Portland, and John Butera, LePage’s senior economic adviser. Butera was executive director of the Central Maine Growth Council in Waterville when LePage was mayor. Robichaud also met with Isgro and business leaders in Waterville.

“It’s a passionate group of businessmen in this community who believe in this community and it played an enormous part in this,” Robichaud said.

In a prepared statement released at the same time as Wednesday’s announcement, LePage said the company “will find success with the highly skilled and creative talent in the Waterville area. These jobs are high-paying careers that will benefit families and the community for years to come.”

Greene pointed to Colby’s recent plans to help revitalize downtown by attracting more businesses and other opportunities. Colby has bought three downtown buildings and plans to create student and staff housing, a boutique hotel and businesses.

Greene said Waterville has a lot to offer, and it is gratifying that Collaborative Consulting was attracted to Waterville for the reasons so many people are — three colleges, a growing arts and cultural focus and a “Main Street with terrific potential.”

Greene said that when discussion started about where Collaborative Consulting might locate in Waterville, his first thought was to approach Paul Boghossian, owner of Hathaway Creative Center. In the long run, the company will have to expand to a larger location, but Hathaway will provide the perfect start-up location, Greene said later Wednesday.

Isgro said the movement to get Collaborative Consulting to Waterville started with DelGreco and his Portland firm, which works to bring companies to Maine. DelGreco, a Colby graduate, worked with Collaborative, Colby and LePage’s office.

“The governor’s office, through John Butera, gave Collaborative a heads up that good things were happening in Waterville, and Mr. Robichaud communicated with David Greene,” Isgro said. “It went from there. There was a lot of collaboration between the college, the state, Central Maine Growth Council and the city, and we were heavily engaged in these discussions.

“As Bill Robichaud mentioned, Waterville was not the first choice.”

Isgro said Robichaud began to see the passion and engaging citizenry in Waterville, as well as the educational infrastructure, which Isgro described as “second to none in Maine.”

Butera said discussions about bringing Collaborative Consulting to Maine started about three years ago.

“Maine and Co. really led the charge and identified this company as a growing industry, a growing company and, as they do so many times, started the introduction of this in Maine,” Butera said.

Butera and DelGreco started a relationship with Robichaud, visiting the Burlington headquarters of the company.

“My job was to get them to Maine but also put all the best options on the table. I saw the vision and the plan and passion that President Greene showed — and the track record,” Butera said. “I just casually said to Collaborative, you should really look at Waterville because I think there’s tremendous opportunity for great partnerships here.”

Butera said drawing Collaborative to Waterville took time.

“These things just don’t click. There are a lot of people involving a lot of discussion,” he said. “Companies don’t make these decisions overnight. That’s the facts. There’s a lot of choices out there. There were many other choices. What they’re trying to do is minimize risk and maximize the opportunity for success. That’s the name of the game, and if your community or state doesn’t afford that, you’re out. It’s about being competitive.”

While Bangor was Robichaud’s first choice to locate the company, he chose Waterville because he felt it was right — for both the company and the city. His wife, Janet, agreed.

“I talked to my wife about it and she said, ‘I think this is the place you should go.'”

THE RISE TO SUCCESS

Robichaud and Collaborative’s senior vice president and chief strategy officer, John Williams, said in an interview after the announcement that Waterville was the right choice for their company, which, besides its site in Burlington, has locations in East Bridgewater, New Jersey; Berwyn, Pennsilvania; and Wausau, Wisconsin. The company employs more than 450 people.

Robichaud, of Reading, Massachusetts, has vacationed for 51 years in Waterford in the Sebago Lake region and says he loves Maine. Eighteen of his family members come to the same campground in Maine every weekend in the summer. In the winter, Robichaud skis at Sunday River.

“I moved to Reading when I was 8 months old and have been in Reading 58 years,” he said. “I’ve been in the same house 35 years.”

Robichaud got started in the technology business during a recession in 1981, when he took some computer courses and got a job as a computer programmer and operator and worked in recruiting sales. He started in the consulting business in 1984.

“That’s when my career started taking off,” Robichaud said.

The climb was not easy.

Robichaud graduated from Reading Memorial High School in 1974 and studied political science at Salem State College, from which he graduated in 1979.

“My sister passed away and I didn’t want to focus on much,” he said. “I married and had a child, the recession of ’81 came and all of a sudden I found being happy and unemployed isn’t much fun, so I borrowed $3,000 from my father and went to computer school. Dad had to take a loan out so I could go to school, and I paid him back.”

The education he received paid off, leading him to the success he enjoys today.

“I love my job. I love the people. We have a hiring profile and my team gets mad at me about it, but I believe in hiring swans — people who are smart, work hard and are ambitious and nice. We have nice people and we take care of them.”

Collaborative Consulting is a privately held company. “There’re no investors. I’m the only investor in my company,” Robichaud said.

He said he runs the company a little differently from a publicly traded company, taking a longer view and approach, developing employees in the likeness the company wants them to be.

“We do things important to us, not just businesspeople, but members of society,” he said.

He and his wife have three children, all of whom are grown and work for the company, which is celebrating 17 years in business, he said.

WATERVILLE LEADERS REACT

Wednesday’s announcement was met with enthusiasm from local leaders and state legislators.

The Hathaway’s Boghossian, a Colby alumnus who attended Wednesday’s announcement, said the development is exciting for the city and central Maine.

“We’ve been prepping for this for a few years, to welcome a big company to come to Waterville and bring nice paying jobs to the city and downtown,” Boghossian said before speeches started. “How cool is that?”

Nearly 400 people work in the Hathaway Center, and another 115 live in the high-end apartments on the upper floors, he said.

Downtown Waterville and the region need an anchor of good-paying jobs, he said.

City Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, said, “I think it’s the best thing that could happen to Waterville.

“We should be home to businesses like this. We need to attract others such as corporate headquarters or engineering firms or other consulting firms, because we’ve got all the services that they need. We’ve got a good transportation system. We’ve got colleges. This is the first one, and hopefully this will be the beginning of more coming.”

Stubbert and Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, attended the conference, as did City Manager Michael Roy.

Mayhew called the decision by Collaborative Consulting to come to Waterville as a “council’s dream.”

“This is what I’ve been waiting for to happen,” he said. “This is going to help expand the tax base, lower the mill rate and provide relief for residential properties that are under enormous pressure in the city of Waterville. This is going to be a huge shot in the arm.”

Roy, a Colby graduate, also praised the initiative.

“This is certainly, for me, proof that people are recognizing that Waterville is on the rebound and that we have a bright future,” Roy said.

Sitting in the front row, Rep. Thomas R.W. Longstaff, a Democrat who represents District 109, which includes part of Waterville, said he is ready to help Collaborative Consulting in any way he can.

“Since the company will be located in my district and will be such an enormous opportunity for the people of central Maine, I want to say how excited I am for prospects for the future and will do whatever I can to help move this project forward,” Longstaff said.

Rep. Henry Beck, a Democrat who represents District 110, which includes parts of Waterville and Oakland, also lauded the project.

“This is just very exciting news for the Waterville region,” Beck said. “The most important thing we need is more anchor, large-scale employers like Collaborative Consulting, and we also have to support the businesses we already have here, whether they’re large or small.”

Beck, who has worked on legislation benefiting Backyard Farms in Madison, independent pharmacies and businesses such as Tree Spirits, a winery in Oakland, said legislators work on issues such as workforce development.

“I think in the next session, the governor and Legislature will work together on economic development, and I’m hopeful,” Beck said.

In a prepared statement, U.S. Sen. Angus King praised the effort.

“I applaud Collaborative’s vision and commitment to add high-paying 21st Century jobs to Maine, to build on the TechHire effort and to enhance the vibrant entrepreneurial partnerships led by Colby, Thomas and Kennebec Valley Community colleges that will help strengthen communities in central Maine,” King said.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, said he is thrilled to welcome Collaborative to Maine.

“They have made a smart decision in expanding their business here and hiring Mainers who are known for their work ethic and excellent skills and service,” Poliquin said in a prepared statement. “I want to thank Collaborative Consulting for their huge investment in this region and for bringing 200 good-paying jobs to the area.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 


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