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ERI’s Historic Portland, Maine Headquarters Featured on 207 Show


ERI's VP & Chief Strategy Officer is Interviewed by WCSH's Rob Caldwell, Host and Producer of 207

PORTLAND, Maine — Jeff Porter, a federal government employee with the U.S. Export Assistance Center, works in the United States Custom House out of a corner office with a commanding view of Fore Street in Portland’s Old Port. The windows, tall and imposing, let in copious amounts of sunshine, and the decorative touches, from a fireplace to brass doorknobs, reflect the building’s 19th-century grandeur.

He’s not the most important person in the federal workforce in Maine — but he just might have the best office.

“I would agree with that,” he said amiably. “I’ve joked with Angus before that apparently we got the jobs mixed up, certainly the offices mixed up.”

Finished in 1872, the Custom House was where representatives from the dozens of ships coming into Portland Harbor every month would stop to pay duties on their cargo. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, before the adoption of the income tax, these duties were a major source of federal revenue.

“This was the epicenter of downtown,” Raffi DerSimonian, said. “This was the first impression that many people from around the world got of Portland when they arrived here.”

Because the Custom House was viewed as a temple of commerce, the government wanted the building to be impressive, even majestic, which it still is more than 150 years later. No customs duties are collected here now, though, and the building provides office space for several federal agencies, such as the Small Business Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

DerSimonian would be the first to tell you he’s a very lucky guy — he has an office in the building for his marketing and public relations firm even though he is not employed by the government.

“I would be perfectly happy working [here] the rest of my career,” he said.

Porter and DerSimonian work across the hall from each other, and although they have no responsibility for keeping up the building, they share a sense of stewardship that stems from their love of its architecture and history. The Custom House is not open to the public, but they’re not averse to showing around someone who knocks on the door with a sense of curiosity.

See full segment and article on NewsCenterMaine.com


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