Maine is awaiting new data from the 2010 Census to confirm the latest population trends. But based on estimates, Maine was one of only three states, along with Rhode Island and Michigan, that lost population in 2009.

That’s why New Brunswick’s experience with growing its population over the past 13 quarters may be worth examining, according to Laurie Lachance, the Maine Development Foundation’s president and chief executive officer.

“We’re far more like New Brunswick than we are like much of the rest of our country,” she said. “And for them to have 13 quarters of success, we can learn from that.”

The foundation and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce released a report last month called “Making Maine Work.” It’s a call to action on business priorities for Maine’s next governor and Legislature.

The report identifies familiar complaints, such as high energy and health care costs. But the first chapter highlights a little-discussed problem: Maine’s declining population trends and the potential impact on the economy.

Any official effort in Maine to grow the population faces challenges, Lachance said. Unlike Canada, the United States is polarized by harsh political debate over immigration. For Maine to sidestep that discourse, the next governor would need to champion policies that promote population growth, she said, and find money to sustain them.

“We need to take this very seriously,” she said.

Many of Maine’s current immigrants are victims of war or persecution in their native lands. Many enter the state through Catholic Charities Maine and its refugee resettlement services.

The agency has assisted 14,000 people since 1975. More than 5,000 newcomers from two dozen countries have started new lives in Maine, according to the agency’s estimates. Between 40 and 60 percent of these new Mainers are secondary migrants, meaning they entered the country through another state before moving here.

Like New Brunswick, Maine also wants to retain and attract young residents. But unlike New Brunswick, Maine’s efforts have suffered from lukewarm support.

A 2004 conference on youth retention led the state to fund a website to help connect residents ages 20 to 40 to jobs and social opportunities in their communities. But state money for Realize!Maine dried up, and after some financial help from Bangor Savings Bank, the website is being hosted by the Maine Development Foundation.

Today, Realize!Maine is being reinvented as a self-administered network of 10 regional affiliates, with more than 2,000 members. One of them, FusionBangor, was inspired by a Fusion network originally developed in Saint John, New Brunswick, which shares a sister city relationship with Bangor.

In late July, New Hampshire launched its own version of Realize!Maine, through a nonprofit organization called Stay Work Play NH Inc.

These enterprises reflect a growing effort by states to use the Internet to attract new workers. One model developed in South Dakota — Dakota Roots — matches participants with family or friends in the state to career openings. Maine labor officials are interested in this concept. They’d like to target skilled workers or business owners with Maine ties, who might move back for the right opportunity.

Staff writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or

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