This is the first in a three-part series to recap what happened this year, and preview what is to come in 2022. Next week I’ll share some interesting facts and figures about 2021, and follow that up the week after with a look at how 2022 will become a truly transformational year for our chamber and this region.

This week though I want to look beyond that and try to lay out some scenarios for what the back half of this decade will look like. There can be tremendous value in looking beyond just the next year to be sure we’re headed towards the right long-term goals, and so like the classic Dicken’s tale, we will handle the past and present in the weeks to come, but for today we will focus on the future.

Hiring in 2027

Currently, it’s our most pressing business concern and it will still be a paramount concern in 2027. The answer to the riddle of ‘why is hiring so tough right now’ is demographics. Maine has been the oldest state in the nation for years now, and we didn’t do enough to backfill for retiring Baby Boomers in our most critical sectors. There are other contributing factors too, but at the core of it, is our collective age.

The good news is, Maine recognizes this shortage and is doing something about it. Initiatives like Live + Work in Maine, broadband expansion to attract remote workers and grassroots workforce programs (like the ones our Chamber is initiating in 2022) are all clear signs that Maine business leaders see a need for solutions. These initiatives will grow over the next five years, but these solutions alone won’t fix everything- there are things business leaders can do today to help.

For instance, every business leader needs to identify who their successor will be. If you are within 10 years of retirement, you should also be grooming this leader. What does that mean? You should start bringing them to community functions, encourage them to sit on local non-profit boards, have them lead projects, and bring them to your finance meetings.


Workforce in 2027

We’re in the midst of an upheaval workforce-wise, and those businesses who can adapt will survive and thrive, and those that don’t, simply won’t. That may seem blunt and unkind, but what we’re seeing is the definition of a capitalist economy- the market will sort out who makes it. To be clear, I want all businesses to thrive- but some will not change how they do what they do, or they’ll lose out to competitors offering their same workforce more benefits, more wages, or most importantly, a better work environment.

The best advice I can give employers is to put themselves in the shoes of the employee. If your employees don’t feel heard, respected and emotionally safe, they will find an employer who does make them feel that way. Be stubborn about that if you want, and mock that as ‘too touchy-feely’ at your own peril, because there are many businesses looking to hire, and they will go somewhere else.

The good news is, businesses had to adjust already due to the pandemic, with some outcomes being flexible scheduling, remote work possibilities, and more childcare support. Initially, some businesses didn’t like these changes, but once they made them, they did find happier, more secure, and more productive team members.

By 2027 I see businesses competing for employees by focusing on the company culture and benefits, and less on wages. People want to be paid to a certain level, but once that is reached, the focus shifts to what makes them feel valued.

Five more future predictions


Mergers and partnerships: By 2027 you will see a number of small businesses combining under one management group but maintaining their forward-facing individual brands. Between the cost of benefits, inventory management and increased remote delivery you will begin to see businesses combining on shareable joint services to lessen the cost to themselves individually.

Rise in technology: Artificial Intelligence is a scary phrase, but this predictive tech will help businesses plan, schedule and manage their online presence. There will also be a rise in remote interaction capabilities and holographic tech will become more regular, all in an effort to make our remote workforces feel more connected (and it will work and make remote work feel more like in-person connections). I don’t know how much of that we see by 2027, but by the next decade, it will be here.

Nonprofit/volunteerism spikes: With a move to more remote work and less interaction in the workplace, we’ll see a spike in non-profit interactions as people begin to ache for those human connections. Employers will begin to compensate employees for volunteerism too, as they’ll see the benefits of growing informal networks and the increase in employee satisfaction. 5 hours a month of paid volunteer time will become a norm.

Childcare revolution: The levee will break, and childcare solutions will develop out of pure necessity to make it more affordable and available. What those solutions are I cannot say for sure, but if I had to guess I’d predict an increase of business on-site childcare, childcare centers moving into unused retail space catering to the businesses in that district, parenting groups having parents staying home one day per week, or grandparents moving in to be caretakers.

CTE revolution: Career and Technical Education will see a shift that will be significant by 2027 and it will continue to grow well into the 2030s. Students are beginning to see how lucrative and steady these careers can be. Individuals can become business owners with the right skills and a few business classes. The shift we make in our mindset as career counselors will be critical, and focusing on a four-year technical high school will make CTE soar by 2027. There is simply too much need for these industries not to have a giant solution soon.

Cory King is the executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber.

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