What do residents of New York and Boston think about during their long commutes to work? Well, as they leave their overpriced homes and trudge through traffic, apparently many of them have Maine on their minds.

According to Realtor.com, the nation’s largest public website for real estate holdings, a majority of the buyer interest in available homes in the Portland area – 52 percent – comes from out of state, the Portland Press Herald reported this week. Only five other U.S. metropolitan areas can say the same.

That’s good news for the entire state. As we are constantly reminded, Maine is suffering from a worker shortage that is affecting industries across the spectrum and in all regions. As those workers age and leave the workforce, the problem will only get worse. And even if every person born in Maine stays here and joins the workforce, it won’t be enough to fill the state’s workforce needs.

Maine has to attract people from out of state to counteract the tough situation that demographics has put us in. One way to do that is to sell those out-of-staters on the way of life here. In the same way we sell tourists on the image of Maine as a place to play, we can show them that it is a pretty good place to live, too.

There are people and organizations who have been pushing that message for a while, and the real estate statistics show it is working. The out-of-state housing searches are driven by younger professionals from larger East Coast cities –mostly from New York and Boston, but also Hartford, Philadelphia and others – who are looking for a change of pace.

The Portland area provides that. It has many big-city amenities but in smaller, closer communities. It is safe, with good schools and close to many outdoor amenities. The traffic’s not bad and housing is cheap, at least when compared to either Boston or New York.

Maine should make sure that message is heard loud and clear in cities across the country. Not only will it appeal to many people who are looking for a good place to raise a family, but it can also help attract the growing percentage of people who are working remotely and are not tied to any one place.

The state should also make sure its other metro areas are included in the pitch, as each has something to offer professionals who are looking for something different.

Of course, Maine must also protect the things that make it special. There are already problems with housing affordability and, at times, traffic in the Portland area, and new arrivals will only exacerbate those problems.

But overall, growth is a good thing. It’s necessary, and attracting out-of-staters is how it will happen. Maine has a lot to offer, and we’re glad to see that message is getting out.

 


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