Mike Turcotte’s Dec. 3 Maine Voices column in the Press Herald makes a critical point that I will expand on: the potential of remote workers to develop Maine’s economy.

A couple of years ago, at a Bangor rural economic-development conference organized by Alan Caron, I presented data on the economic impact of remote workers.

The numbers are startling. A typical rural Maine town has an average family income of about $40,000 per year and a population of 4,000, or 1,500 families. So the total town income is $60 million.

Now let’s say the Smith family moves to our town because it’s a great place to raise a family and they are willing to pay Maine’s higher taxes for a better quality of life. John and Mary Smith each earn $75,000 per year. In one fell swoop, the average family income jumps by almost 0.2 percent – a considerable amount. If our town is 1,000 families, our town’s family income increase approaches 0.8 percent. If the incoming family’s income is $250,000 in a town of 1,000 families, our town’s family income grows by almost 1.2 percent! A major bump.

Are these realistic numbers? Absolutely. I drew them from real people in real towns.

So what should Maine do? Two things: Short term, entice family members to return home and telecommute. Since many rural towns have a summer homecoming day, a stage is readily available. And many locations have adequate internet for them. Long term, Maine should flesh out Turcotte’s suggestions. The short-term approach cost is minimal, depending only on local initiative. The long-term approach cost is inexpensive compared with the long-term cost of the giveaways required to recruit a business.

What are we waiting for?

Ronald O. Brown


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