David Harbison and Bison Pumps 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year
PRESQUE ISLE — A business that may not even be in existence if not for the “Great Ice Storm of ‘98” and its owner have been honored as the 2013 Aroostook Entrepreneur of the Year by LEADers Encouraging Aroostook Development and Momentum Aroostook.
At an awards dinner Thursday evening at Northern Maine Community College, David Harbison, the owner of Bison Pumps in Houlton, topped two other finalists to win the award.
Bison Pumps was established in 1999, following the ice storm, which left millions without power from New York to central Maine. David Harbison and his crew at Harbison Plumbing and Heating developed a hand pump for wells that can be used when power goes out. The product and eventually other models were developed and are now sold around the world via the Internet. Harbison, with his son Jon, has built Harbison Plumbing and Heating into a company with more than 20 full-time employees with a portfolio, which includes plumbing and heating contracting, metal fabrication/Manufacturing and real estate holdings, but it is Bison Pumps that has brought the most attention to the company, having been featured on television, in newspapers and magazines.
“Harbison is truly one of Houlton’s hidden gems and he fits the very description of an innovative entrepreneur that LEAD and Momentum Aroostook seek for 2013,” said LEAD President Jon McLaughlin.
Innovation was the theme for the 2013 contest and all the finalists showed innovation in developing products and markets said LEAD Executive Director Ryan Pelletier.
Andrew Birden of Fiddlehead Focus was selected as first runner-up. The first issue, June 23, 2010, was only one page and only black and white, but the web presence is where the venture found it voice. Page views of the web version, 2000 a month in the early days, have risen to more than two million per month now. Print distribution is now more than 2,000 a week and a portion of the newsstand price goes to charity. From a one-man operation, with some family volunteers, Fiddlehead Focus now employs four full-time and two part-time workers.
The second runner-up also represents the media. Fred Grant of Northern Maine Media Inc., which operates WHOU 101.1 FM, effectively uses the Internet to bring a piece of hometown life to people who have moved away from The County. The radio station streams McGill’s Community Band Concerts, high school basketball games and even the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards ceremony Thursday evening.
A common theme from all the finalists who addressed the crowd of more than 70 people is they would not be nominated if not for the exceptional people who work with them.
“This event highlights that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Aroostook County, and LEAD is proud to be a sponsor of this event and we look forward to continuing to recognize individuals and businesses such as these in the years ahead,” Pelletier said.
Other nominees included: Michael and Emily Carpenter, owners of Carriages of Acadia, Inc. based in Houlton; William Tasker, director of Caribou Chamber of Commerce; Dale and Mark Chamberland, Aroostook Woodsmiths and R.F. Chamberland Inc. St. Agatha; Cathy Duffy Cullins, owner Progressive Realty in Caribou; and Shawn Pelletier owner C.S. Management, Pelletier Property Services, Salar Storage North and Washburn Street Storage.
A panel of six judges, one representing each of the sponsors, LEAD and Momentum Aroostook, and the supporting organizations, Husson University, Northern Maine Community College, the University of Maine at Fort Kent, and the University of Maine at Presque Isle, selected the finalists and the ultimate winner.
LEAD Appoints Executive Director
Jan. 8, 2013-- CARIBOU — The executive committee of LEADers Encouraging Aroostook Development on Tuesday, Jan. 8 approved the appointment of Ryan Pelletier as the organization’s first ever executive director.
Pelletier will take on the part-time role in addition to his current responsibilities as director of economic and workforce development for Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC).
"It is exciting to have Ryan as executive director of LEAD, a key partner representing the small business community in the Aroostook Partnership for Progress,” said LEAD President Jon McLaughlin. “This is a position that LEAD has needed for several years and was unable to consider until just recently. Ryan’s expertise in past municipal legislative work will benefit LEAD in its advocacy work and having a person of his caliber as the go to person will help further solidify our efforts.”
Prior to joining NMDC, Pelletier was town manager of St. Agatha for 11 years. He also served as President of Maine Municipal Association and chaired that organization’s legislative policy committee.
“My first priority as the LEAD executive director is to get out and meet with as many business owners as possible and increase the membership, said Pelletier. “LEAD’s current membership is just under 100 and I want to see that grow and become an even greater advocacy arm in Augusta and Washington, D.C.”