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Scaling in Rural America

Case Study Friday | 2–3:30 pm | Osher

How does one build a national or international company HQ in rural America? What resources are available, or not available? How is the search for talent different? For growing your market share and finding customers outside of the state, or outside the country?  What are the financing opportunities?

A case study around companies (physical and digital products) that have successfully built and still operate a growing company in rural Maine. The case study highlights how the company was started and the choices, challenges, and benefits to scaling your company in rural America.


Planson International

The focus of the case study will be around Planson International, headquartered in New Gloucester, ME. Planson International is a global supplier of Information and Communication Technology for international organizations.

Still run out of the red barn on the family property where it was started, the firm has grown to $52 million in annual sales and a 45-strong workforce, mostly in Maine but also including employees that relocated from Maine and now work remotely.

It has a subsidiary in Ringe, Denmark, and is a supplier to the United Nations and other international organizations providing humanitarian aid and economic support in developing countries. Last year the company completed a $26 million project to supply computer labs to nearly 900 high schools in the Philippines.

At any given time, Planson is involved in dozens of projects around the world. It supplied equipment for a project that used trained rats to detect land mines in Mozambique. It provided solar-powered voter registration kits to keep elections inclusive and fair in the Tanzanian countryside. It turned sections of plastic pipe into traps that sterilize tsetse flies with radiation in Zanzibar to wipe out the deadly sleeping sickness they carry.

Although the company mostly provides technology, it also has supplied items from steel roofing materials to trucker hats.

A typical assignment for Planson begins with a request from an international organization, government, nongovernmental organization or business. Much of the work involves projects funded by the United Nations, often related to human development, disaster relief or conservation.

The client explains the project, and Planson’s job is to come up with the best technology solution at the lowest possible price.


Rockstep Solutions

Cloud First, Born Mobile. RockStep Solutions, Inc. creates modern animal laboratory informatics software, leveraging mobile devices, social media frameworks, and advanced technology infrastructure to revolutionize laboratory data management. Our innovative approach addresses common barriers to science, including cumbersome paper and pen data collection and lag times between data collection and availability for analysis.

While the idea began in a kitchen in Bar Harbor, ME, the turning point was in 2014. RockStep was selected for an innovation award from NIH, based on transformative ideas around building lab information systems to disrupt the way laboratory workflows were managed.

Rockstep Solutions received a $224,000 innovation grant in 2015 from the National Institutes of Health. The Small Business Innovation Research grant was awarded to RockStep for development of the next generation of information management software technology for preclinical biomedical research.

Working with the latest software technologies and mobile devices, RockStep Solutions will use the SBIR funds to build and test a prototype cloud–based mobile laboratory software system called, CLIMB.

RockStep then partnered with Microsoft to begin developing advanced technologies, in the Azure cloud, into Climb.  In 2017, the core of Climb was released to the public and has been adopted by a number of large research labs including a Nobel Laureate lab at UCSF and labs at The Jackson Laboratory, Columbia University, MIT, as well as labs in biopharma, where companies are focusing on rapid transition to cloud infrastructure.

Our company works with frontier scientists to understand their needs, as well as some of the world’s most advanced technologies to ensure our system is state of the art, scalable, secure, low maintenance, all at incremental costs to our customers.