Northern New England Is Dying

Too many communities are focused on keeping people from fleeing instead of attracting new and diverse talent.
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Too many communities are focused on keeping people from fleeing instead of attracting new and diverse talent.
Main Street in downtown Montpelier. (PHOTO: GEAREDBULL/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Main Street in downtown Montpelier. (PHOTO: GEAREDBULL/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Does your region want economic development or talent retention? Most communities pick plugging the brain drain. Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine are even willing to go so far as attracting businesses to their states in order to keep graduates from fleeing:

In Maine, Republican Gov. Paul LePage blames high taxes for the exodus of younger residents. Lowering the tax burden and creating a "business-friendly" state, he said, would keep taxpayers in the state and attract new companies - and, with them, new jobs. LePage's administration has proposed eliminating income taxes on pensions, which they hope will make Maine a "retirement destination."

"Maine's demographic imbalance means that there will be fewer employees for businesses, and there will be fewer customers to buy their goods and services," LePage said in a statement. "Maine's high-tax policies discourage young people from moving to Maine and staying in Maine, and they discourage entrepreneurs from creating jobs. That is why we cut taxes. Those efforts are working, and thousands of new private-sector jobs have been created in Maine since I took office."

Democrats who control governor's mansions in New Hampshire and Vermont, two other states that have aged rapidly over the last two decades, take a different approach. They tend to point to accomplishments and goals in the education arena. Their hopes are to build their tax base by keeping students, as well as attracting new employers.

Northern New England is dying, aging rapidly thanks to the demographic bulge of Boomers. Young adults are a dear commodity to be hoarded. Who will pay for grandpa's health care?

One reason that many Americans believe Medicare does not contribute to the deficit is that the majority thinks Medicare recipients pay or have prepaid the cost of their health care. Medicare beneficiaries on average pay about $1 for every $3 in benefits they receive. However, about two-thirds of the public believe that most Medicare recipients get benefits worth about the same (27%) or less (41%) than what they have paid in payroll taxes during their working lives and in premiums for their current coverage.

Emphasis added. Preferably, the young adults sticking around the old mill town in Maine are single. Households without children will vote down the school mill levy proposal keeping those pesky taxes down. Besides, high school graduates are more likely to leave than dropouts. Winning.

Unfortunately for Northern New England xenophobes, mathematics works against them. The fountain of youth for a fixed set of territory won't run forever. Aaron Renn issuing a warning to Indianapolis that should be heard in Augusta, Concord, and Montpelier:

Q: What can Indianapolis do to stave off “brain drain” and retain or attract more young, talented professionals and their incomes?

A: I prefer to think attract, rather than retain. There’s only 1.9 million people to retain, but there are 7 billion to attract.

But Renn is an outsider. Don't listen to him. Heed the words of a Mainiac:

Any efforts to improve the economy in Maine will be thwarted by the state’s aging population unless the state can attract more young people, and the widely held goal of preventing young Mainers from moving out of state won’t come close to solving the problem.

That was the keynote message from University of Southern Maine economist Charles Colgan during a four-part forum launched Tuesday morning by House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick.

“People assume that if we could just keep our young people here, it would solve the problem,” said Colgan to dozens of people who gathered at the Augusta Civic Center. “There are not half enough of them because not enough young people are born here. We have to get people from other places to move here. We’ve got to get more people in.”

OK, never mind Colgan. He's probably a Masshole driving up rents in Portland, liberalizing politics, and fixing schools. Besides, why would anyone listen to Massachusetts. Boston itself is dying.