landowner in Hampden, Maine, stopped by the town office complaining that
his neighbor's new driveway was encroaching on the property line. To
determine if a boundary had been breached, town officials printed off a
state-of-the-art computer-generated map, created by combining aerial
photographs, global positioning system points and databases.
the coming year, that same detailed information about any parcel in the
39 square miles of the central Maine community will be available online.
town is way ahead of the curve in terms of using GIS (geographic
information systems)," says Gretchen Heldmann, Hampden's newly appointed
GIS and information technology specialist who stepped up to help direct
the town's efforts. "Many towns contract out for GIS and most only have
black-and-white, hand-drawn parcel maps made by the assessors that are
then digitized. Hampden has invested in taking its maps to the next
level of accuracy by contracting out for high-resolution,
Earth-referenced aerial photos that will be used as our base map."
Heldmann has spent the past year helping the town get up to speed on GIS
mapping and digital data management. Her stint started with a summer
internship in 2005 that involved working as a member of a team to
produce more accurate, user-friendly tax maps. Heldmann then helped her
assessing and code enforcement coworkers in the municipal office learn
how to use specialized mapping software.
Working part-time for Hampden throughout her senior year at the
University of Maine as a forestry major, Heldmann tackled the town's
computer system — or lack thereof. She developed a five-year,
cost-saving action plan to phase in new computers and improve
consistency of the 50 computers scattered throughout the town — from the
municipal building to the public library.
Another of her major projects this past summer was developing better
maps to aid the police and fire departments.
"Towns like Hampden need one IT person for consistency," says Heldmann,
who started working on computers at age 5. "Individual people working
for the town don't have time to learn the more in-depth (computer)
stuff, and they shouldn't have to."
Heldmann gained her GIS know-how at UMaine, where courses in the
technology are required for forestry majors. With her computer savvy,
GIS came naturally to Heldmann. It also fit nicely with her desire to
work in forest policy and management.
fall, Heldmann is in UMaine's master's program in forestry, conducting
research on land use change in the state. By surveying landowners and
collecting such information as agricultural use, tree growth and tax
payments on property, Heldmann plans to create a GIS model to
characterize the likelihood of parcels being developed.
years, Heldmann has been interested in how forests can be managed to
coexist with urban development. She is driven to find the answers
because of the heavily developed areas she grew up seeing in her home
state of Connecticut.
"Maine has such a great land use history. I don't want Maine to become
not one of those people from away who wants to change Maine," she says.
"I want to help the people of Maine maintain that heritage of public use
of private land. And I want to make sure there are areas near urban
areas where people can go to experience nature."
heat is on
William Sulinski is putting in another 14-hour day. The latest version
of his start-up company's business plan is due on Monday. It's the third
he's written in the last seven months, not out of indecision, but
because of out-and-out entrepreneurial success.
Matthew Rodrigue, left, and William Sulinski
you're talking about a start-up, everything changes and becomes clearer
with each day that goes by," says the Dedham, Maine, native, president
and CEO of the recently incorporated Consumer Energy Research Corp. (CERC),
newly headquartered at Target Technology Center in Orono, Maine.
Sulinski is working with Matthew Rodrigue of Wilton, Maine, who is
providing advising and consulting services to the company. Rodrigue was
the nation's top electrical engineering student in 2004. For the past
year, the pair has collaborated to take CERC from the drawing board to
on, Sulinski also had assistance developing CERC's business plan from
his brother, James, and from University of Maine student Brigham
Benchmarks of their success include winning two major business plan
competitions: in March, a $25,000 prize — $10,000 cash and $15,000 in
legal consulting and other services — from the Center for
Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern Maine School of Business;
and last December, $5,000 in the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce
Business Plan Competition.
the spring, the new company also received a $5,000 seed grant from the
Maine-based Libra Future Fund.
past summer, CERC was invited by Fortune magazine to enter its national
business plan competition to vie for the top prize of $35,000.
investor funding, Sulinski hopes after Jan. 1 to beta test the company's
first product, Heat-Safe, a wireless device to improve the efficiency of
home heating oil delivery. A patent application is in the works. Enercon
Technologies in Gray, Maine, will prototype the device.
oh yeah, the two entrepreneurs still have college courses to take.
Sulinski, a UMaine senior, will graduate in December with an
undergraduate degree in financial economics. Rodrigue, a 2004 UMaine
graduate and, most recently, an engineer team leader at Woodard & Curran
Inc., a consulting and operations firm, begins his first semester at
Harvard Business School this fall.
"Heat-Safe will be our first product, but I don't expect it to be the
last," says Sulinski. "We'll be doing research on other devices, but
just now, we're working with oil industry efficiencies that have a
bearing in Maine. We're planning to sell our product throughout the
Northeast and Midwest."
Sulinski, whose family is in the heating oil business, had the idea for
Heat-Safe. He developed the invention with the help of Rodrigue and the
expertise of Target Technology Center and UMaine's Office of Research
and Economic Development.
made this idea successful so far has been hard work and the generosity
of people at the university, Target, the Maine Patent Program and all of
our outside counsel who want to help out," Sulinski says.
the bedrock of Sulinski's entrepreneurial nature comes from his father.
"He worked 15-hour days, but he enjoyed it and has something to show for
it," says Sulinski, who was 13 when he started doing accounting work for
the family business.
first thing I learned from my father, who built his business over 16
years into a fair-size company, is that anything is possible."