‘New England Cluster House’ Caters to Entrepreneurs Committed to Ocean Sustainability Goals


Entrepreneur Katie Weiler at After Party at New England Cluster House, 68 Commercial Street,  on the Portland Waterfront Last Saturday, June 4th.

Some of the After Partiers at the New England Cluster House,  68 Commercial Street, Last Saturday, June 4th.  For These Alumns, it was a Reunion of Good Friends Because They Had Rented Space Previously There.  At the Far Right in Yellow is Chris Cary, Marketing Director for the “Hus.”

Ever since she was a student at Camden High School, Katie Weiler has been fascinated by the problem of plastic pollution in the ocean and what can be done to eliminate it. She’s finally pursuing that passtion with financial support from other like-minded people she told this blogger last Saturday following the reinstated “Walk the Working Waterfront” event on Commercial Street in Portland.

Katie was one of many who attended a two-hour after party last Saturday at tne new New England Cluster House on the Portland waterfront. For many, the occasion was a reunion because they got their starts there and have remained friends at the attractively designed facility at 68 Commercial Street.

“We celebrate what these waterfront entrepreneurs are doing here,” said Patrick Arnold, who with his wife Janeen, an interior designer, are the founders of this innovative “Hus” (House) with deep roots in Iceland.

“We work with our members and tenants on commercial development in environmentally positive ways that generate opportunities for the people who live local to that resource.  That’s called the ‘Blue Economy,'” said Patrick.  The primary funder of the New England Ocean Cluster is  Dr. Thor Sigfusson, founder and chairman of the Iceland Ocean Cluster

But back to Katie.  Her goal is to determine whether kelp, a type of seafood, is strong enough to be used in fishing gear – fishing gear such as bait bags used in lobster traps.  Traditionally, petroleum based plastic is used in fishing gear.  To replace petroleum with kelp would be a step in the right direction toward reducing our dependency on fossil fuels.  Kelp is a  renewable resource said Katie.  Kelp grows faster than land based crops like corn.  It also helps fight ocean acidification because it captures carbon – another importnat factor for its use in sustaining oceans. Katie has been successful in obtaining grant money in the amount of $35,000  from the University of Maine Cerl Lab to pursue her research at that Portland-based lab.  She has applied for additional grant money from other sources and is waiting for results for her company:  Viable Gear Co.

Now an alumnae of New England Cluster House, Katie’s six months there at a grant funded desk by Bristol Seaford was well worth it.  “I got a lot out of working here.  The wonderful network connected me to a Dean at the University of Southern Maine who helped me in the first steps of getting my IP,” said Katie.  She is a graduate of the University of Vermont.  Go to: www.viable gear co. com for more information on this work in progress.