This summer, America’s college graduates are choosing where exactly to embark on their professional careers.

Cities like Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C., will welcome millions of them, as many young professionals enter blue-chip industries such as accounting, finance, and law.

I know because I was one of them: After graduating from Vassar College in 2015, I joined a public affairs firm in Washington, D.C., making regular visits to Capitol Hill and socializing with many a think-tank expert.

Unfortunately, Washington, D.C.’s gain is often Portland’s loss. The Old Port is expected to attract nearly 40 million tourists this year alone, but many young professionals see Portland as a tourist attraction and not much more. Too many appreciate Portland’s cobblestone streets and lobster shacks, but ignore the city as a professional destination—a home, where they can also climb the career ladder.

Not surprisingly, Maine’s workforce faces a demographic crisis. According to the Maine State Economist’s most recent projection, the number of Mainers aged 65 years or older is expected to grow from roughly 257,000 in 2016 to nearly 352,000 by 2026—a whopping 37 percent jump in a single decade. The number of Maine residents aged 20 to 39 years of age, however, is projected to remain relatively flat—a two percent increase over 10 years.

Even in Portland’s Cumberland County, the 20- to 39-year-old age group is staring at a mere 3% increase in the coming years.


We need to buck that trend, and Portland is best-equipped to do it. To those young professionals considering the city, I couldn’t recommend it more strongly.

While Portland may seem like a quaint New England town – and not the largest city in a U.S. state – it outdoes its larger competitors in many ways. The Greater Portland metropolitan area, after all, houses more than 520,000 people.

We are blessed with world-renowned restaurants, an assortment of quirky cafes, and your choice of craft breweries. In fact, Portland boasts the most breweries per capita in the entire country. It’s no wonder that Bon Appétit named Portland its “2018 Restaurant City of the Year.”

Of course, there’s also its natural beauty. From rocky coastlines to evergreen forests, Portland is indeed the gateway to “Vacationland.” Bostonians and New Yorkers vacation here for a reason.

That being said, Portland’s economy is no slouch either. Young professionals “from away” may think of Portland as a home for downtrodden fishermen and creaky lobster shacks, but economic reality tells a different story—a story of thriving businesses and high-end clientele.

Look at it this way: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in Portland is $51,430. That is higher than in larger cities like Miami, San Antonio, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, or St. Louis. Whereas Portland’s poverty rate hovers around 18 percent (admittedly, still too high), a city like Miami’s is closer to 25 percent. Portland incomes are also on the rise, totaling seven percent annual growth.


Moreover, wages and salaries here go a longer way than in many other cities. Based on data, the cost of living in Boston is 20.5 percent higher. In Washington, D.C., it’s roughly 22 percent higher. In New York City, you need twice as much income to achieve the same standard of living.

Fortunately, Southern Maine is no stranger to large employers. Earlier this year, the payment processor WEX Inc. opened its new global headquarters in Portland, bringing 400 new jobs to the area. Job creators such as Mercy Hospital and Unum Group have called Portland home for years. Twenty minutes down the road, L.L. Bean’s corporate headquarters oversees thousands of employees nationwide.

And they are looking for young professionals. As the Maine State Economist explains, “Companies in all industries across the state are facing shortages of workers and are experimenting with creative ways to attract new hires.”

Large employment is only bolstered by an undercurrent of innovative energy. From software engineers and graphic designers to food truck operators, Portland’s cafes are buzzing with entrepreneurs.

I’m one of them. Last year, I relocated my public relations firm—Zenica Public Relations—from Washington, D.C. to Portland, and business has been better off for it. As a Millennial, I chose the Old Port’s offerings over the allure of the nation’s capital. I am proud to call it home.

And I’m not alone. Portland is ready for a new wave of young professionals, whether they’re “from away” or not.

We are ready to welcome you. Come to Maine. You won’t regret it.


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