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NH's New Leadership: Michelline Dufort
Published Friday, February 9, 2018

Michelline Dufort has made a career out of helping vertical industries to grow in NH—from hospitality and  nonprofits to high tech. And now she has set her sights on family-owned businesses having taken the reins of the UNH Center for Family Business and the CEO Forum in Durham from retiring, long-time director Barbara Draper in September.

Dufort has a special affinity for family businesses, having grown up in one. Her grandfather, Leo Sprague, started a slipper manufacturing company in New York State, which employed 1,300 at its peak. “I grew up in a town where everyone worked in the business,” she recalls. “I got the importance of family businesses and the awesome responsibility they feel to the people they employ.”

She left New York to earn her masters degree in communications and public relations from  Emerson College in Boston and then landed her first job as executive director of the Anthony Spinazzola Foundation in Massachusetts, a nonprofit that raised money for culinary education and training and to fight hunger and homelessness.  

After eight years, she moved to NH, where she took on a string of leadership roles at industry associations: president of the NH Lodging and Restaurant Association, director of public policy and affairs at the NH Center for Nonprofits and, most recently, director of business relations for the NH High Tech Council and vice president of public affairs for Cookson Strategies for almost four years.

While at the NH High Tech Council, Dufort worked with the team to grow membership, introduce new programs and ramp up the Council’s legislative affairs efforts. She is looking to have a similar impact on the Center for Family Business.

“Because I have been working in an association management model, I believe I can bring to the table creating programming that truly serves business leaders,” Dufort says. “We know there is an opportunity for growth just by the sheer number of family businesses in the state.” The center is seeking to add to its programming, says Dufort, who is excited to help family businesses grow. ‘There really is something fascinating about the dynamics of a family business. This will be very special work,” she says.

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