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Updated: August 1, 2022

It’s not a perfect process, but Maine is moving forward

Peter Van Allen, Mainebiz editor

The past three years have brought more change than Maine might have seen in the previous three decades. How we adapt and reorganize with the growth still has to be worked out, but we’re moving in the right direction. COVID brought waves of new residents seeking a safer, more manageable life here. Many sought out schools and housing and are getting involved in local life. Maine’s population has grown for the first time in many years, reversing a slow decline. Has it been a perfect process? No. Housing was already in short supply and now is at a premium, with the median home price at $360,000 and inventory very tight. The worker shortage is a factor for all kinds of businesses, and while wages have grown they haven’t kept up with inflation. Health care facilities have gone through major transitions and the network of social services is being stretched. Those issues need to be addressed. But we have new blood, new talent coming into the state and that’s the most encouraging thing. As we sort through the challenges, new businesses and growth will naturally follow.

How Maine ranks among other states on some key issues

You can count on Maine to rank high on quality-of-life factors. You meet people who moved here so they could spend more time outside or because the schools were better or neighborhoods were safer. During the pandemic, people moved to the Pine Tree State in droves. But Maine doesn’t always fare as well on national rankings for the economy, average salaries or the cost of living. Here’s an overview of where Maine ranks in different areas.

Where Maine ranks high

Maine ranked No. 27 on the “Overall Best States Rankings” put out by U.S. News & World Report, through 2021, up from No. 32 in 2019, the last time the magazine did the rankings. Among the eight criteria, it ranked highest on crime and corrections (No. 2) and natural environment (14). It ranked in the mid-20s on health care (26), education (27) and fiscal stability (26), but in the mid-30s on economy (36) and infrastructure (37). As a state for opportunity it ranked No. 29. Washington state topped the rankings.

Atlas Van Lines reported that Maine was its No. 1 move-in destination in 2021, with 64% of its customers moving in versus 36% moving out. Similar rankings from U-Haul and United Van Lines had Maine at No. 8 and No. 14, respectively. (February 2022)

Cumberland’s Greely High School was ranked No. 1 in Maine in U.S. News & World Report’s annual listings. The Top 5 also included Kennebunk High School, Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone, Cape Elizabeth High School and Falmouth High School. Among 18,000 U.S. high schools, Greely ranked No. 1,178. (April 2022)

Portland ranked No. 8 on the “Best Places to Live” list put out by U.S. News & World Report. The ranking cited a strong job market and high quality of life. The magazine cited a “do it yourself spirit,” with entrepreneurs making everything from mittens to coffee. Despite the high ranking, the magazine cautioned that “an aging rental and housing stock combined with a tight market on mid-tier units have left middle-income earners struggling to settle in Portland.” (May 2022)

Maine had three colleges on CBS News’ “Hardest colleges to get into” list: Bowdoin, at No. 18; Colby, at No. 21 and Bates, at No. 34. (August 2021)

On WalletHub’s list of “Best-run cities,” Lewiston ranked No. 36 and Portland No. 44 among 150 municipalities nationwide. (June 2022)


On the midcoast, in Wiscasset, the legendary lobster shack Red’s Eats was featured on “Somebody Feed Phil,” a Netflix series.

Where Maine needs improvement

When ranked on the economy, Maine was No. 44, based on 29 criteria — the eighth-worst in the U.S. and worst among states in the Northeast. Below Maine are, respectively: Wyoming, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Louisiana, Alaska and West Virginia. (WalletHub, June 2022)

Maine ranked No. 43 on CNBC’s list of “Top States for Business 2022.” The good news is Maine’s yearly ranking moved up from No. 48. From 10 criteria, Maine ranked highest in “life, health and inclusion” (2) and lowest in infrastructure (49). Overall, North Carolina topped the list. (July 2022)

On a list of “Best & Worst States for Teachers,” Maine ranked No. 49, according to WalletHub. Teachers are overworked and underpaid, and have limited opportunities, the personal finance site said. Worse, Maine fell from No. 42 as recently as 2019. (September 2021)

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