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Updated: April 12, 2022

Maine Outdoor Brands launches advisory board to bolster workforce

Person at sewing machine Courtesy / Maine Outdoor Brands Maine Outdoor Brands is a Portland-based nonprofit trade alliance up to more than 150 members, including O'Terra Designs of Biddeford. Shown here is Erin O’Toole, the company's owner and founder.

Five years after the formation of Maine Outdoor Brands, the Portland-based nonprofit trade alliance is launching a workforce advisory board to bolster industry efforts to attract, retain and build an inclusive workforce.

Maine Outdoor Brands, led by Executive Director Jenny Kordick, currently has more than 150 members, from new startups to established brands including L.L,Bean Inc. and Flowfold.

Maine Outdoor Brands' new 10-member workforce advisory board is co-chaired by Devin McNeill, co-founder and CEO of Flowfold and a 2019 Mainebiz Next List honoree; and Ponch Membreño, who sits on Maine Outdoor Brands' board of directors and works with emerging outdoor product and retail companies. 

Devin McNeill outdoors
File photo courtesy / Flowfold
Flowfold CEO Devin McNeill

"As a new group we are really trying to pay attention to what the needs and opportunities are where we can best support Maine's outdoor economy and workforce, and being focused on where we can make the biggest impact," McNeill told Mainebiz. 

"There are so many different opportunities within the industry, and we hope to help build on ramps to the industry while also developing and building the skills of employees who already work in the industry."

As for Flowfold's own workforce, McNeill said the company currently has 19 employees in Gorham, and has continued to be able to grow its business as well as take on contract manufacturing to help support other companies making products domestically.

"We've got such a talented staff that have opened up new opportunities for our company," he said.

'Important' work for Maine

At Maine Outdoor Brands, the new workforce advisory board plans to develop an employment guide with resources and best practices, increase the reach of the organization's job board, host briefings for members and create career pathways in Maine's outdoor industry for students and others.

“We see passion for outdoor recreation driving professional pursuits, and those pursuits further propelling that passion,” Kordick said. “The work this advisory board will tackle is important not only for our industry, but also the entire state, as we look to attract and retain a younger workforce.”

A survey of the organization's members conducted in early 2021 found that while employers in Maine’s outdoor industry are attracting a younger workforce, filling open positions remains a challenge.

The survey also found that half of new hires reported by outdoor industry employers are younger than 35; 71% of respondents reported difficulty finding qualified applicants for open positions; and roles in marketing, customer service/hospitality and guiding are expected to be in greatest demand over the next five years.

Besides the two co-chairs, members of Maine Outdoor Brands' new workforce advisory board includes: Phil Shettig of Sterling Rope; Maureen Lafferty of L.L.Bean; Libbi Cinti of Appalachian Mountain Club; Alicia Heyburn of Teens to Trails; Willard Morgan of Chewonki; Will White of Summit Achievement; Stacey Keefer of the Maine Marine Trades Association; and Alvah Maloney, owner of Maine Kayak.

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