A billboard in Texas promotes Maine as a relocation spot for military personnel transitioning to civilian life. Photo courtesy of Live + Work in Maine

“Can you picture yourself in Maine? Good, so can we.”

That’s the question and answer posed by a billboard on Interstate 35 in San Antonio.

Another of the 10-foot-tall highway signs reads: “When your tour of duty ends, the next adventure begins,” and shows an outline of a Maine map and the state’s name.

A $25,000 ad campaign is using the pair of strategically placed billboards to draw veterans and health care workers 2,000 miles north and help ease Maine’s crippling shortage of workers.

Each year, over 200,000 active-duty members leave the U.S. armed forces. The veterans are typically well-skilled, with the economic means to go almost anywhere. 

Three nonprofits are hoping they’ll end up in Maine. Live + Work in Maine is a business initiative encouraging worker relocations to the state; Boots2Roots is helping military personnel transition to civilian life in Maine; and Northern Light Health, Maine’s second-largest health care system, is looking for employees. 


“We have phenomenal career opportunities for everyone, right off the bat,” said Nate Wildes, executive director of Live + Work in Maine.

The yearlong campaign launched in July 2022 and runs through this July. The billboards are running six months of advertising for Boots2Roots and six months of ads promoting Northern Light.

“You served your country. Allow us to return the favor,” another billboard for Boots2Roots reads.

Live + Work in Maine has seen a 76% increase in Texas-based web visitors, and the number of Texans engaging with Maine-based job listings has doubled since the campaign started.  Photo courtesy of Live + Work in Maine

Bill Benson, director of Boots2Roots, said San Antonio was a natural fit and a strategic choice.

Texas is home to a large population of military personnel and veterans, and the city is home to Joint Base San Antonio, the largest multiforce operations base in the Department of Defense. San Antonio also is the center of all medical training for the Army, Navy and Air Force.

I-35, the busiest highway in Texas, connects Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. The two billboards were placed near Fort Sam Houston and Brooke Army Medical Center.


Maine has all the qualities someone would want, Benson said, listing attractions such as the ocean, mountains, a low crime rate and good schools. The state also doesn’t tax military pensions, a huge draw.

“I really think Maine has so much to offer, but people in the military don’t necessarily know about Maine or even where Maine is,” Benson said. “There’s an education that needs to happen.”

The campaign appears to be working. 

Live + Work in Maine has seen a 76% increase in Texas-based web visitors, and the number of Texans engaging with Maine-based job listings has doubled since the campaign started. 

Wildes estimates that the billboards have been seen by about 1 million people.

Boots2Roots also has seen an impact, Benson said.


In the six months since the Boots2Roots billboard made its debut, the number of people working with the agency has more than doubled, from about 30 to 66. And San Antonio recently has moved up into the top 10 areas with the most followers on the Boots2Roots LinkedIn page, Benson said.

He’s also heard from people who have noticed the billboards.

Some of the campaign’s influence will be more apparent in the months ahead, as Boots2Roots starts working with a new population of military members who are 12 to 18 months away from a transition to civilian life.


Maine roads have been billboard-free since 1984 when the last of the giant signs along U.S. Route 1 was purchased by the state and cut down. 

In 1977, Maine became the second state in America to ban off-premises billboards, after Vermont in 1968. Over the following seven years, 8,500 Maine billboards were removed. Today, Alaska and Hawaii also ban the signs.


While not found in those four states, billboards remain a popular advertising medium elsewhere, especially in large states with extensive highway systems – such as Texas.

The San Antonio billboard campaign is just one piece of a larger effort to attract people to Maine. Photo courtesy of Live + Work in Maine

According to the Out of Home Advertising Association of America, 69% of viewers of a digital street ad immediately took action related to it, such as seeking more information or purchasing a product. The association also found that 45% more consumers are noticing out-of-home advertising than the number before the pandemic. 

Maine and other states are banking on that attention-getting ability.

An economic development corporation in Ohio is conducting a $50 million national advertising campaign to lure businesses and workers to the Buckeye State – and the snarky billboards have raised some eyebrows. 

In New York City, an Ohio billboard reads, “Work from ‘home,’ not an ‘over-priced studio apartment.’” 

Another sign, in Austin, says “Keep Austin weird. Like the very high cost of living weird.” 


Indiana and Kentucky both have used billboards to try to lure workers out of Illinois. “Illinoyed by higher taxes?” asks a billboard there, placed by the state of Indiana.

In 2021, the nonprofit Northwest Arkansas Council also took aim at the cost of living in Texas, encouraging tech workers to move to neighboring Arkansas. “It’s like Austin, but affordable,” one billboard said. 

Another read, “Everything’s bigger in Texas, including mortgage payments.”

Maine’s messaging is decidedly less adversarial, marketing the state as a whole and as a destination. 

“The messaging we were delivering was resonating with people,” Wildes said. “It was about a place everyone could relate to, not a specific city or a sub-region.”

The billboard campaign is just one piece of a larger effort to attract people to the state. Live + Work in Maine also holds in-person and virtual events and places online ads. But the billboards are perhaps the most obvious.


Wildes said the only other physical advertisement marketing Maine to out-of-staters is actually much closer to home, at the Portland International Jetport.

The idea is to attract people who may be traveling for work, who have or want to have a “compelling interest” in Maine, Wildes said. That effort has yielded an increase in online traffic specifically from the jetport.

The group also is planning to host a few events in Boston. These are especially geared toward remote workers who may want to stay in Boston but are open to new jobs.

If we can’t get you here, at least we can get you a job for a Maine-based employer,” Wildes said. 

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