It is well documented that Maine needs more people in order to thrive economically. What if a small fraction of the state’s expected 34 million tourists became residents?
Many people who visit Maine comment, as they are packing up the seaside cottage or lakefront camp, that they love the state and would move here if they could. Live + Work Maine, a website designed to showcase Maine and match job seekers with employers, is working to turn that sentiment into reality.
“The conversation is ‘woe is us in Maine.’ We are getting older. No one wants to be here. Companies are thinking of relocating because they can’t find employees,” said Ed McKersie, the president of Pro Search, a recruiting and staffing company in Portland, who moved to Maine in 1989 from Massachusetts. “We need to change that conversation.”
The creation of Live + Work in November is McKersie’s effort to pivot the conversation toward Maine’s assets. His close contacts with the state’s employers and his ability to move quickly put him in a unique position to do so.
Here is the problem McKersie and Maine are facing: The Pine Tree State’s workforce, roughly 700,000 people, is expected to shrink by 20,000 workers by 2020 as older workers retire.
“Without positive natural change, Maine will depend on net in-migration to maintain our population and workforce,” the Maine Department of Labor wrote in its report “Maine Workforce Outlook 2012-2022.” “In the recent recovery, net-migration to and from Maine has remained near zero. That trend must be reversed to maintain the size of our workforce.”
A recent survey of Maine business owners found that many of them had jobs going unfilled. The most common reason they cited was a lack of qualified candidates, which highlights a second problem: Maine doesn’t just need more workers, it needs educated workers.
“Everybody’s defined the problem,” McKersie said during an interview with the BDN. “What is the solution?”
People such as Kathleen Parker are part of the solution. She came from Missouri to Maine for a friend’s wedding last year and quickly decided she wanted to move here. Parker, a California native, is now an IT recruiter for Pro Search Inc. Her story is one of nearly two dozen featured on Live + Work’s website.
Like many others, Parker appreciates the life-work balance that Maine offers. Short commutes (not full of honking drivers), beaches for after-work dog walks and weekend family outings, family-friendly neighborhoods, diverse restaurants and welcoming, friendly people were all highlighted as great reasons to move to — and stay in — Maine.
To replicate Parker’s experience, Live + Work Maine, along with 15 employers, has launched a new campaign, Visit for a Week, Stay for a Lifetime. The point is simple: Come to Maine for a visit and save your receipts. If you move here within a year, participating employers, which include Acadia Hospital and Wayfair in Bangor, will reimburse you for some of your vacation costs. Maine is a ripe target for this campaign: 34 million people are expected to visit the state this year, according to the Maine Office of Tourism.
The innovative program recently caught the attention of Conde Nast Traveler, which included a suggested itinerary for a weeklong visit.
Live + Work, which partners with the Maine Office of Tourism, local chambers of commerce and many other groups, isn’t really about tourism. It is a career network site with a searchable listing of Maine employers. That list is searchable by career and lifestyle priorities, such as whether you want to live near a beach or in the woods and whether you like hunting, skiing, brewpubs and theater, for example.
The website and database are available at Live + Work kiosks in the Kittery, Kennebunk and Gardiner welcome centers.
Its message, Maine is a great place to live and work, isn’t just for visitors. It is an important reminder for residents and employers, too.