Rural Maine High Tech Firm Faced With Relocation Gets Creative to Attract Specialized Workers
A high tech company in rural western Maine employs more than 50 people from all over the state and beyond. About a quarter show up to work at the company’s headquarters in South Paris everyday. But most don’t. And as Lori Valigra reports, the company’s founder says its all part of a strategy that allows Mingle Analytics to maintain a skilled and loyal workforce, without having to leave Oxford county.
Bobbie Manson is at the end of a busy workday entering medical data into an application that her employer uses to help physicians improve their patient service, and in turn, raise their reimbursement rates from Medicare. The job pays well, comparable or better than most in greater Portland. And the best part is she doesn’t have to leave the comfort of her own house.
“I have two daughters and a son.” Manson says. “My husband as well works from home. I certainly could have done what many people I worked with did and done the day care route and dropped them off, but just my husband and I when we got married that’s not the life we wanted to lead. We wanted to raise the kids. We wanted to be here for them.”
Manson is Mingle’s software development manager. She has nine people reporting to her from Ellsworth, Maine, to Warsaw, Poland. The company has 56 employees and most of them login remotely from their homes as far away as New Sweden, near the Canadian border in northern Maine, to Colorado and beyond. Only about 25 percent of the staff comes in to the office in a small commercial building above a restaurant in South Paris.
“Well, we started the company here in South Paris, Maine, because this is where me and the first employee lived,” says Dan Mingle.
Founder Dr. Dan Mingle says when he launched Mingle Analytics six years ago, he knew that finding and keeping a good workforce might be challenge, particularly here in rural Oxford County.
“And thought we’d last about a year to two years before we needed to move south to Portland, probably, to tap into a larger labor market,” he says.
But he found letting employees work from home helped him pull in the talent he needs.
“And it worked extraordinarily well I was incredibly surprised,” he says.
“The early futurists predicted that everybody would work from home and that we would work from electronic cottages and there would be no need for cities and things this. Certainly that hasn’t come to pass,” says Ryan Wallace.
Wallace is director of the Maine Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Southern Maine, which is close to completing a two-year study on remote workers. He says six percent of the overall workforce in Maine works from home, and about half of those are salaried.
“What we found is that sort of the middle to older age workforce are the ones that are engaging in remote work,” he says.
Mingle says there are three main reasons that people might want to work from home. Either they live too far away, work better and more comfortably at home.
“And other people it’s personal concerns, a family member to take care of, a child at home, an elderly adult to take care of, so it’s just easier if they’re there to supervise,” says Mingle. “I’m amazed at how many people I find in the puckerbrush here in Maine that are extraordinarily talented and are working for companies out of state.”
The company offers fee-based consulting and software services that help medical providers determine how much Medicare will reimburse them. Mingle, a former family physician himself, says he saw a need for the service as Medicare started rating doctors on their quality of care.
“For an entrepreneur physician, healthcare is a target-rich environment,” Mingle says. “Lots of things to do to improve care and improve cost.”
Mingle anticipates that at the company’s current rate of growth the current workforce of 56 could triple or even quadruple over the next five years. And many of those new hires, he says, will work remotely. Still from his home just a few miles from the office the company founder admits working that from home isn’t for everybody, including him.