Like so many others across the United States, the events of 9/11 led Peter DelGreco and his wife, Sally, to reassess what they wanted out of life.
The pair’s wedding happened to be scheduled for the weekend following the attacks. And shortly after tying the knot, while honeymooning in Maine, the DelGreco’s found the lifestyle they were looking for. It was in Maine that they felt at home.
The couple had been living and working in Washington, D.C., where DelGreco landed after a stint at the Massachusetts-based specialty food manufacturer, Progressive Gourmet. DelGreco began his career during the company’s infancy. Working at the start-up level gave him the opportunity to wear many hats, learning first-hand what it would take to manage a growing business.
Today, DelGreco applies these lessons at Maine & Company, where he first landed a job after making Vacationland his permanent home in 2002. At the company’s Portland-based office is where DelGreco found the product he not only wanted to sell, but believed in.
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“My product was the state of Maine,” he explains. “That’s what I was selling, and I needed to learn what resources were out there, what the interesting and compelling stories were and become as familiar with the state and the people as I could.”
DelGreco learned his product, and for a dozen years he has sold it better than anyone could have imagined.
Progressive Gourmet is where DelGreco picked up the positive outlook that has served him well throughout his life. The food industry, he says, is an “all-consuming industry where you learn to do the impossible every day.” It’s also when he learned that “growing revenue is inextricably linked to customer satisfaction. I had to make sure that my client always wanted to call me back.”
The transition back to Maine wasn’t easy, though. At that time, he had advisors, friends and even potential employers tell him that being “from away” was a liability, that it was a prerequisite for employment to be familiar with Maine and long-immersed in the state.
“Thankfully,” observes DelGreco, “that is no longer the case.”
In the midst of his job search, DelGreco pursued his MBA, looking to fine-tune the business knowledge he had picked up at Progressive Gourmet. During his final semester at the University of Southern Maine, he became aware of a job opening at Maine & Company. While working in Washington D.C. he had heard about the organization and their efforts to increase economic development in Maine. Intrigued, DelGreco applied for the open position.
He finally got the break he needed, and was hired as the organization’s director of client services. In that role, DelGreco’s first order of business was to be on the ground, researching the state of Maine from Kittery to Fort Kent.
He was integral to getting major companies, such as T-Mobile in 2004, to expand operations to Maine. AthenaHealth’s move to Belfast quickly followed T-Mobile, and DelGreco has remained consistently successful since. In the last 18 months, he has worked on projects that will bring an estimated 2,000 jobs to the state. Wayfair, Sun Life Financial, Collaborative Consulting and OnProcess Technology are among the big names that DelGreco has helped attract to Maine.
Now President and CEO, DelGreco relies on his small but “great” team of two others to help bring these major players in the business world to Maine. So how do they do it?
“It all comes down to building relationships,” says DelGreco.
These relationships are not only with the out of state businesses Maine & Company hopes to bring here. DelGreco and his team seek out support from established Maine businesses. For their financial support, they are given a seat on the Board of Directors, but receive no other direct benefit.
However, as DelGreco describes, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
Established Maine companies like LL Bean and Cianbro, among more than 20 others, benefit from the work Maine & Company does – building a stronger economy and an experienced workforce while nurturing a strong and connected business community. For these businesses, it’s a small price to pay in exchange for the potential economic boon.
Maine & Company doesn’t benefit financially from its work, either. It is a non-profit who provides services for free with the sole objective of bringing companies to Maine. But why would someone with DelGreco’s business acumen take on such a mission when he could be earning more elsewhere? For him, the answer is simple.
“I get to tell the whole world about why Maine is is a great place to live, work, and do business. We’ve got a great story to tell. We have challenges like anyone does, but in the end we have companies that could choose to go anywhere in the world. They come here, and they are wildly successful. I get to tell that story and I hope I get to do that for quite a long time.”
Peter DelGreco is a passionate advocate for Maine. For twelve years, he’s taken a lesson he learned from the food industry and put it to work, doing the impossible every day for the state of Maine. He does this work behind the scenes and his only motivation is to see Maine succeed. That’s why Peter DelGreco is a Maine Icon.