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Maine Courts Young Natives To Live And Work In Their Home State

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

If you've ever lived, vacationed or just passed through Maine, the state has a message for you. I want you back. The state's economy is thriving, and its population is older than any other state in the country, so they need workers. Ed McKersie is a Maine-based recruiter. He runs the state government-funded Live And Work In Maine program, and he's making a big push to get former Mainers to come home. Welcome to the program.

ED MCKERSIE: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: So how are you tracking down people who used to live in Maine?

MCKERSIE: Well, we're getting the word out with our website. We're doing a lot of work on social media - Facebook, LinkedIn. We partnered with the colleges and universities here in the state to reach out to their alumni networks. And what we're also finding - and it's one of the reasons we launched something like this is - there's a lot of people who live here who know people. When they visit, they - people are always leaving saying, boy, I wish I could pull this off. I wish I could live here. So we've also kind of got an army of folks that live here that are reaching out to their friends.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, but is that because the population booms in the summer so a lot of those part-time people only see Maine at its best?

MCKERSIE: Well, that's if you think the non-summer months are not the best.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

MCKERSIE: It really depends, right? We've got ski resort operators that would probably argue you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Well, I wonder if your focus on people who once lived in Maine is an implicit acknowledgement that maybe the state isn't for everyone, but people who've been there before may want to come back.

MCKERSIE: Well, I think I'd look at it a little differently. We see the folks that have already been here as lower-hanging fruit, if you will. We're really sincere about marketing the quality of life that Mainers enjoy and people who have been here know exists. I will tell you, as a recruiter - I've been in the Maine market since 1989. I've never brought somebody here who had no connection to Maine come here, interview and be less interested because of location. They're always blown away. So - and that's not just the Greater Portland area. That's throughout the state of Maine.

SHAPIRO: All right, you've got a captive audience. Give us your best pitch.

MCKERSIE: Well, here's the thing. You are in high demand. You can live anywhere. And really the things that are important to you and your family are what we have in spades here in Maine. We've got great health care system, great schools, real quick access to the great outdoors regardless of the season and low crime rates.

SHAPIRO: Plus moose and lobster.

MCKERSIE: Moose and lobster. We don't lead with that, Ari, but...

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) I'm sorry. This is terrible of me as a non-Mainer. I'm from the other Portland on the West Coast, so, you know, there's a friendly rivalry. Is it terrible of me to stereotype the state with moose and lobster?

MCKERSIE: No, not at all. I mean listen. One of the reasons I launched Live And Work In Maine is we have such a strong identity. People know Maine. It's not as though they've never heard of it. It's not - they have associations with Maine, right? So moose, lobster, cold winters - you know, whatever that association is, we have done a great job of branding ourselves as Vacationland.

So when I launched Live And Work In Maine originally, one of the things I said to the team that was helping me was, we need to do what we did for Vacationland. It needs to be a place to bring your career. So Careerland's a little corny. I used that once or twice and decided that wasn't the way to go. But that's what we're doing.

SHAPIRO: When you talk to people who used to live in Maine, is there one particular local product that you mention to appeal to their nostalgia that will make people want to come back - I don't know - a soda or something manufactured in the state?

MCKERSIE: Yeah, that's funny. I probably mentioned L.L. Bean and just say, look; can you imagine you would be that close? And you don't have to go through the catalog anymore or go online. So that's always a good pull. That would be something I would probably be using.

SHAPIRO: Ed McKersie, thanks very much.

MCKERSIE: Thank you - appreciate the opportunity.

SHAPIRO: Ed McKersie is a Maine-based recruiter who created the program Live And Work In Maine.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WANT YOU BACK")

THE JACKSON 5: (Singing) Oh, baby, give me one more chance. Won't you please let me back in your heart? Oh, Darling, I was blind to let you go, but now since I've seen you, it is on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.