SKOWHEGAN — Heather Finnemore graduated from the University of Maine on a Saturday in 1992 with a degree in communications. She packed her bags the next day and started a new job in Boston that Monday.

Over the next 20 years, the Skowhegan native worked in the technology sector for multinational Fortune 25 companies including Toshiba, Gateway and Nokia.

“It was fascinating. It was challenging, interesting and a lot of fun,” she said. “I learned something every day, and I had the opportunity to lead multiple different types of businesses within these large companies, from start-up divisions to large, established sectors of the business.”

She said her years working in e-commerce, information systems, marketing, sales and operations in Dallas, San Diego, Hartford and other cities were “a great opportunity to learn from some industry leaders and experience different business models and cultures.”

Now, she’s bringing it all back home.

In 2010, she adopted “my little boy,” a three-week-old she named John, and moved back to Skowhegan where she had family, friends and now a child to raise.


“I was single at the time, so I was a single parent and was just resigned to stay home with him,” she said of John, now 5 and in kindergarten at North Elementary School in Skowhegan. “I always knew when I started the adoption process that when I was lucky enough to have a child I would stop. It wasn’t a travel-friendly job. I wanted John to have roots and family and that was all here.”

In 2014, she married Jeff Johnson, the executive director of The Children’s Center in Skowhegan, who already had three grown children of his own.

These days, Heather Johnson, 45, is the new executive director of Somerset Economic Development Corp. She took over in July for Jim Batey, who had retired.

“I always wanted the second phase of my career to be less about the high end corporate world and more about something that felt like it contributed more to a community,” Johnson said last week. “And Skowhegan is home to me. When I moved back, I found that there’s a lot of ties here that you kind of want to take the opportunity to have. This is a great combination of these two worlds.”

As executive director of SEDC, Johnson works at helping small businesses grow, creating an economy that’s sustainable in the long term and getting people “really great jobs.”

“How do you create an economy that, long term, creates opportunity for all of our children if they want to stay? How do we do that?” she said of her goals at SEDC. “That, to me, is really interesting and leverages what I know.”


Her job is about creating a healthy economy in Somerset County, Johnson said. She said the two focus areas for her work include bringing broadband — high speed Internet — to as many businesses and households as possible.

She also is focusing on workforce development, making sure that people have the right skills for the jobs that are here and to make local businesses more competitive with the workforce they have access to.

She said she is working with Jobs For Maine Graduates and a group at the high school that is trying to meet the employment needs of local businesses by matching them with the abilities of students and recent graduates.

As for trading the view from the corporate windows of Fortune 25 cities in the United States for a basement office in the county courthouse that once held the sheriff’s department, Johnson said it was the right move for her to make.

“This is a wonderful job for me. I love it,” she said. “I love the combination of a little bit of my old world business experience combined with the community components of this role. It’s perfect.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367


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