By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,718)
“My job is to find my replacement so Portland Yacht Services is a safe place for the 45 employees and their families to count on into the future,” wrote Phin Sprague, Jr., 65, in an email earlier today to mhn.com. On another occasion Sprague said that he learned from his grandfather, a successful businessman, that picking his successor was part of his responsibility as a business owner.
The man who Sprague has picked to succeed him to run Portland Yacht Services is Jason Curtis, 44, a sixteen year employee of the company; he is Vice President of Operations. Curtis began work at the Portland Harbor marina as an outboard technician. He has worked his way upward until landing this new position that became official in December of 2013. A Maine native, Curtis served in the US Air Force from 1991 – 1995 as a Senior Airman; stationed at Beale Air Force, in northern California. During that time, the low-key Curtis attended electro/environmental school from which he graduated first in his class of 82 students.
That education landed him a job as a specialist on the famous U2 Spy Plane. He was responsible for the wiring of the aircraft, the pressurization of its inside as well as for the space suits pilots are required to wear because they fly above 70,000 ft. high. That is the same spy plane that Francis Gary Power was famously piloting over Russia in 1960 when he was shot down and imprisoned there. About systems, Curtis said yesterday afternoon at Portland Yacht Services conference room, “whether they are on aircraft or on yachts, they have to be put together correctly. In the middle of the ocean or up to 70,000 ft or more above, the systems HAVE to work or the pilot/ captain is in big trouble,” said the unpretentious Curtis. An important influence in his life remains George Gherardi, owner of White Rock Outboards, Gorham. Gherardi gave Curtis his first job when he was 13 years old. Curtis rode his bike 8 miles every day after school and during summer vacations to get to his job. He’s grateful to this day for that experience and all he learned under the tutelage of Cherardi. “It sparked my interest in all things mechanical and I’m grateful to this day,” said Curtis.
Currently, one of Curtis’ focuses is on preparing for the upcoming shows to be held at 58 Fore Street. They are the annual Flower Show and Boat Builders’ Show. This year the roughly thirty boats currently stored at PYS are being transported to another Sprague project – New Yard – on Commercial Street. Because of the sale last year of the Portland Complex to Jim Brady and his investors, Curtis knows that the PYS office will be moving, but exactly where has not yet been determined. (PYS was sold to the Jim Brady group for $15 million.) Last fall, Sprague purchased the former Gowen Marine as well as property on Commercial Street for the construction of his New Yard, which is underway.
Sprague said of his choice to succeed him: Curtis shares his “vision” for PYS and is quick enough to adapt and create a new vision if circumstances change. “He builds people up. He is honest, fair…and takes good care of his team if things don’t go as planned.” “I have learned a lot about business from Phin,” said Curtis yesterday.
His wife, Wendy, is the head of the Waynflete School Science Department. She earned a Master’s Degree from MIT in nuclear engineering. “She’s really a good teacher,” said Curtis in praise of his wife. They live with their their children outside of Portland.