ORONO, Maine — Government regulations continue to restrict small companies, the former president and CEO of Georgia-Pacific Corp. said Wednesday afternoon during a talk at the University of Maine.

A.D. “Pete” Correll, a 1966 University of Maine graduate who led the pulp and paper giant for 14 years, said meeting the men and women who run small companies in his new role in a private equity firm has reaffirmed his belief in the American system of capitalism.

“I am now totally committed [to the idea] that if you do not restrain the businessmen and the businesswomen of America [they] will create value and economic growth for our citizens,” said Correll, who is now the chairman of Atlanta Equity, a private equity firm that in-vests in growth companies in sectors including business services, health care, specialty manufacturing, technology and retail.

“So every time I hear of and see a new regulation, I ask, ‘Why?’” he added.

Correll was the inaugural speaker in the Distinguished Lecture Series, University of Maine President Robert Kennedy said. The series was created to provide a forum for highly accomplished individuals with ties to Maine to share their personal stories and perspective on important societal issues.

Correll spoke for about 30 minutes to a standing room-only crowd in Minsky Hall.

Correll outlined lessons he learned that allowed him to succeed in business. Several of those were related to his time at the University of Maine, from which he earned a master’s degree in pulp and paper technology.

Correll said that after his graduation from the University of Georgia, he applied to the University of Maine for graduate school. Lyle Janness, who was the chairman of the chemical engineering department at the time, encouraged Correll to come north.

“His giving me that chance saved my life,” Correll said. “He gave me the opportunity to grow. … He said, ‘Come on up to Maine and we’ll make it work.’ You know, you never know what will happen when you open the door for some-one.”

Correll did not address the current state of the pulp and paper industry in Maine, which has struggled in recent years. Georgia-Pacific ran a mill in Old Town for several decades until it closed in March 2006. Correll retired that year.

He did not take any questions after his talk.

Correll’s wife, Ada Lee Correll, who taught in the Old Town school system when the couple lived in the area, also attended Wednesday’s lecture.