Building Maine Businesses #294

Business is booming in Maine. Today we speak with two individuals who are leading the way in this field. Melissa Smith is the president and CEO of WEX, which is one of three companies in our state to have revenues of more than a billion dollars. William J. Ryan, Jr., is the principal owner and chairman of the Maine Red Claws, Portland’s NBA development team.


Melissa Smith

Melissa Smith, president and CEO of WEX, began with the company in 1997 as a senior financial analyst and worked her way through numerous roles, progressively gaining greater responsibilities and building a strong track record of execution. As CFO, Melissa led the company’s highly successful IPO in 2005. Then, as president of the Americas, she was responsible for the company’s growth in the Americas, both organically and through acquisitions. And, today, as CEO, Melissa has responsibility for the company’s day-to-day global operations and its long-term strategic growth. She also serves as a WEX board member. Born and raised in Maine, Melissa was recognized as Mainebiz 2012 Woman to Watch and won the tribute to Women in Industry Award from the Maine Women’s Fund in 2015. In 2017 she was inducted into the Junior Achievement Hall of Fame and was named Mainebiz Business Leader of the Year. Active in non-profit work, Melissa is co-founder of the Executive Women’s Forum as well as co-founder of sheJAMS, an all-women training club that allows women to train together in a non-competitive spirit. She also is a sponsor of and participant in Tri for a Cure. Additionally, Melissa serves on the Maine Health Board of Directors, Dead River Company Board of Directors and is a former board member of the Center for Grieving Children. Melissa earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Maine.

William J. Ryan, Jr.

William J. Ryan, Jr., the principal owner and chairman of the Maine Red Claws. He began his professional career as an attorney, practicing corporate law in Portland. He practiced law for four years before embarking on his career in the sports business at McDougall Sports Marketing. While at McDougall, Ryan primarily worked in sponsorship sales for NASCAR and Indy Car teams. Leveraging the knowledge of the auto racing business gained while at McDougall, he purchased Oxford Plains Speedway in 1998. Ryan was honored for his operation of the Speedway by industry group Racing Promotion Monthly three times, including being named the Northeast Region Promoter of the Year in 2008. He sold Oxford Plains Speedway in the fall of 2012. In 2007, Ryan was approached with the idea of bringing an NBA Development League team to Portland. He and his father, former TD Bank CEO William J. Ryan, Sr., formed a local ownership group made up of leaders from across Maine’s business community. After two years of work, the Maine Red Claws held their inaugural season in the fall of 2009. Ryan also has investments in real estate, restaurants, and early-stage technology companies. In addition to his business interests, Ryan has been involved with a number of non-profits. He is currently on the boards of the Portland Museum of Art and Thomas College.