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June 4, 2024

Maine needs more workers — wherever they're from — to keep up economic growth, Mills says

Janet Mills at a World Affairs Council event. Photo / Renee Cordes Gov. Janet Mills, speaking at a Portland conference on Monday, said Maine needs more workers of all kinds to keep up with the state's economic growth.

Maine needs more workers — including those from other states and countries — to keep pace with the state’s economic growth, Gov. Janet Mills told more than 150 business and community leaders at a conference Monday in Portland.

Overall, about 13,400 people have joined the state’s workforce in the past three years, she said at the event co-hosted by the World Affairs Council of Maine and the Maine International Trade Center. 

“That’s good news, but we know that our economic growth is continuing to outpace the number of people who are available to work in Maine,” Mills said.  

“We need every person who is able to work in Maine to be able to do so — to support themselves, to contribute to our economy, and fill the jobs that our businesses are creating every day.”

Touting the value of immigrants to Maine’s workforce, she noted that her administration is working with the state's congressional delegation to urge a speed-up in federal work authorizations for people seeking asylum.

Within the state, she highlighted the need to invest in high-speed broadband, affordable health care and accessible child care so that workers of all kinds can keep working. That includes immigrants who are “filling critical roles and contributing diverse perspectives that are leading to economic growth,” she said.

"We have more work to do," she said,"especially when it comes to building more affordable housing, but investing in what people need to enter, and succeed, in the workforce is strengthening our economy and attracting new people to our state."

As proof of that, she noted that Maine's gross domestic product grew nearly 2% in 2023, the second-highest in New England, and that the state ranked ninth in the nation for net migration, meaning that more people moved into the state than left it.

Mills said that while that was mostly driven by net domestic migration, Maine was among only seven states nationwide to see positive international migration to all of its counties.

Speaking with a strained voice, Mills said she wasn't sure if it was seasonal hoarseness or from her recent attendance at a Rolling Stones concert in Massachusetts. 

'Maine of Tomorrow'

Citing a 2018 Mainebiz feature article on immigrant entrepreneurs, Mills touted their value to “Building the Maine of Tomorrow,” as demonstrated by Orson Horchler’s carpentry business employing fellow immigrants of different nationalities.

"Wondering what the 'Maine of Tomorrow' will look like has been a question at the hart of my administration since the beginning of my time in office," the Democrat said.

During a panel discussion that preceded the speech, Stefanie Trice Gill, founder and principal recruiter at IntWork, an agency that helps employers find diverse talent, said that if Maine wants immigrants to stay here and thrive, “we have to acknowledge the value of their credentials and offer opportunities for them” to grow their skills.

She was joined on the panel by James Cabot, president and CEO of Southworth Group International, a Portland-based manufacturer; Kate Durkin, apprentice administrator at solar company ReVision Energy; and Georges Budagu Makoko, founder of Ladder to the Moon Network, a Portland-based nonprofit, and co-founder of Amjambo Africa, a print and digital newspaper for immigrants launched in 2018.

People at a table
Photo / Renee Cordes
Georges Budagu Makoko, right, addresses the audience during Monday's panel discussion.

Makoko, who hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo, said his newspaper covers diverse aspects of immigrants’ lives, including health, education and the economy. The paper is published in seven languages and has correspondents in African countries including Nigeria, South Sudan, Uganda and Rwanda.

“It’s been a very fulfilling mission,” he said.

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June 7, 2024

Growth is not EVER the answer, it IS the PROBLEM!!! The world population has almost tripled on my lifetime. The US population has doubled! What has that solved. 400 years ago Manhattan island had a few 100 or 1,000 residents, today 2 million. Do you want Portland to have 130,000 residents, Greenville 20,000? What problems will that solve? It will CREATE untold new problems.

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