Are There Really Two Maines?
HR’s Role in this Equation

The Tollhouse Pie at the Dysart’s Truckstops in Hermon and Bangor vs. the croissants at Belleville on Munjoy Hill in Portland. Is it just that simple? Of course not.

There are demographic, cultural, and political shifts in Maine, and some of that has been accelerating in recent years. The economic expansion in southern and mid-coast Maine is apparent. The challenges to resource-based businesses and manufacturing are equally visible in our inland river towns and the reaches of the North Woods.

This concept of a divide is not unique to Maine. It’s occurring in states across the country. However, I’d like to take a contrarian view. My premise is that Mainers are closer to each other than commonly expressed.

There is an underlying, uniting factor – our unique and clever good nature. Mainers are friendly and friendlier than most. Next time you’re in an airport outside the state, listen for the noise and laughter, and that will likely direct you to the gate where a plane is headed to Maine. Ask your friends around the country what they think about Maine, and you’ll hear about childhood memories of summer. You’ll also hear about the trust they hold for our residents. When a product is branded from Maine, it has cachê in a way few others can match. Perhaps only Vermont. Try selling New Jersey Blueberry jam!

So, what are the implications for the HR community in Maine? It’s long been the premise of the Maine HR Convention that when HR is well-positioned, employers and employees alike thrive, with an exponential spillover effect to neighboring communities.

HR in metro-Portland companies will help fuel the expansion north and out. Many talented Millennials and Gen Z want more than city-life and its associated costs, and there will be an inevitable movement on their part. HR in re-purposed mills in Lewiston-Auburn and Waterville will help bring economic vitality to old buildings and neighborhoods. And the intrepid HR leaders in incubator companies in places like Millinocket will provide hope for transformation.

You can do that! So can the Maine HR Convention. The Good Shepherd Food Bank will be our designated cause in 2020, and we will have a track called “Making a Difference.” You’ll dive into programs where you can challenge community assumptions and think about human dynamics, sustainable growth, and revitalization. Here are issues we will explore in this track:

  • Just what is the Living Wage, and how is its impact spread around the state? Do you need to raise your wages? And, how do you model financial wellness?
  • What is the immigrant community’s role in our quest for talent? How are they hired? How are they onboarded?
  • How does employee-based philanthropy nurture workplace culture and impact neighbors?
  • What can employer’s do about the opioid epidemic? That is huge.
  • Anything else you want to bring to the table?

Now, back to breakfast. As for me, I’m perfectly at home in Dysart’s (Bangor native here) and at Belleville (current Portland resident). 

Bud Bernstein
Curator for the Maine HR Convention
Strategic HR U.S.