APRIL 25, 2011
When Becky McKinnell, president and founder of iBec Creative, a web-design firm in Portland, told me she was collaborating with business communications consultant Mark Girr to launch a new company, ikno Intranet, she asked me to take some head shots of them with a high-tech feel. Of course, most of the Old Port looks … well … old. I went location scouting to see if I could find a backdrop that would have clean lines and something that would suggest interconnectivity. Still being a relative newcomer to Maine, I don’t know the lay of the land all that well, so I motored along, hoping something would catch my eye.
I’ve driven along Congress St. numerous times, but this was the first time that I noticed the glass skylight and façade at the Portland Public Library. I entered the building and found a stairway leading me up to the skylight on the second floor where all sorts of pipes crisscross. Ah! Just the look I was hoping for. Sandy in the development office was kind enough to let us come in one morning before the library opened for the day to do the photo shoot.
I learned that the library was founded in 1867, but a renovation was completed just last year by Scott Simons Architects. I called Scott to ask what the function of the pipes is. I wondered if they were part of the heating system or if they housed electrical wiring. Scott explained that the trusses are structural elements. “The library used to be quite dark,” he said, “and it was hard to figure out where you were going. The skylight and glass façade bring more light into the space.” Scott said that the super high-performance glass retains heat better, but with less heat escaping, snow doesn’t melt as fast. In order to support the extra weight of the snow, the trusses are needed to reinforce the structure. Scott said he enjoys the challenges of taking old buildings and bringing them up to the 21st century. “Besides bringing in more light,” he says, “we were able to improve the visual readability of the space.” Sounds to me like his job is really to make a physical space communicate better with its users.
Improved communication is also the goal of ikno Intranet. An intranet is like a mini-Internet and is used by individual companies for employee communication. It is best suited to businesses that have more than 50 employees or that operate in multiple locations. It’s an interactive platform for sharing documents, ideas, and internal communications. It also incorporates its own form of social media. Mark Girr, head of Girr Corp., had a background in internal communications, but he was frustrated by available intranet platforms. He wanted to create a new format and knew that would require a strong, user-friendly website design, so he teamed up with Becky to design an interface. They did a test account for Norway Savings Bank, and they are now developing systems for Visiting Nurses Association and Green Buildings Strategies Group. Mark said, smiling, “Some day we’d like to be nipping at the heels of Microsoft.” Well, I believe he’s got the right partner. Last year Becky was named as one of Business Week’s Top 25 Entrepreneurs Under the Age of 25, and if anyone can do it, she can. Congratulations, Mark and Becky, on the launch of your new enterprise!