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State launches 'Early Adopter' program, partners with small businesses

The Department of Economic and Community Development is partnering with three Maine businesses for product use, and hopeful expansion
Credit: NEWS CENTER Maine

AUGUSTA, Maine — For small businesses, finding new customers can be a challenge. That's why the State of Maine is looking to partner with small businesses to become early adopters of their products.

"We were really looking for a way to support innovation through the state itself," said Martha Bentley, the director of economic development coordination for the state. 

This week, the state announced it has selected three small businesses based in Maine to partner with as part of its Early Adopter Program. As part of the program, various state agencies will partner with selected small business for product use, in the hopes of moving the product into the mainstream. 

"If a company is developing a new product or service, as a Maine based company, and the state could be a potential early adopter customer or pilot tester, beta tester, then we really want to help out there," said Bentley.

The three companies selected are OpBox, Acadia Composite Materials and Pumpspotting.

"OpBox has really been about retail and hospitality, this gives us the chance to work with different state agencies and take our blank spaces and stretch the concept a little bit," said Ben Davis, co-founder of OpBox and ACM alongside his sister Emily David.

   

According to Bentley, the Early Adopter program partnerships will last about a year, and each businesses will be awarded up $10,000 for developing their products for government use. 

For OpBox and Acadia Composite Materials, they will be building three boxes for use by various state agencies. 

"The OpBox is blank canvas for commerce," said Emily Davis. "The material really lends itself to year-round use. And in a state like Maine, where we deal with hot summers and very cold winters, the material is flexible enough to be able to house either refrigerated food or beverages or medical supplies, to be air conditioned in the summer for events."

OpBox and Acadia Composite Material create modular units that can be used for just about anything. They're also made from roughly 140,000 recycled plastic bottles. The businesses is based out of Nobleboro, Maine. 

The business Pumpspotting is an app that works to support breastfeeding parents. In partnership with the Maine Bureau of Human Resources, pumpspotting will provide state employees, as well as their partners and spouses, access to the pumpspotting mobile app, which provides nursing, pumping, and breastfeeding parents with timely, evidence-based content, uplifting notes and supportive articles, a crowdsourced map of places to nurse and pump worldwide along with support from certified lactation consultants.

Bentley tells NEWS CENTER Maine, she hopes this is a way to help expand customers for the respective businesses, and hopefully lead to expansion.