Central Maine Millennials: What they love, hate, and want to change.

This article is a part of our Leaning Into Change series. Topics are meant to inspire conversation leading up to our 2016 Summit in Waterville. Registration is now open. Follow along with #GrowSmartME.

What do millennials in Central Maine see as its best assets, its biggest opportunities, and its biggest barriers? We talked to 10 millennials living in Central Maine and asked three big questions covering myriad topics with regard to quality of life in Central Maine: the economy, things to do, quality of place, and all issues affecting the ability to grow prosperously in the area. All answers are 100% anonymous to give respondents the opportunity to share honest feedback.

Love: “What’s something you love about Central Maine?”

“There is always something to do outside in each season, we may have hard winter storms but I would take that over any other storm; I like to ski and snowmobile.

“That there are both rural and urban areas, that you can spend some time in the woods and enjoy nature on trails or in parks but can also dress up and go out to a nice place in ‘the downtown’.”

“Parks and open areas – big cities like Boston and New York and Chicago don’t have access to these kinds of things. I can still hear birds chirping and animals in the woods from my house, and I appreciate that about life here.”

“Maine in general really is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. We can breath fresh air, actually see the night sky, get some quiet at night, and each season brings new things to do and see across the entire state. I love that I can explore everything from where Central Maine is located. We can drive down to Portland, we can drive up to Bangor, we can do a day trip in Acadia, and we can raft in the Forks. Location, location, location.”

“I love the focus on nature, with all the trails for walking/hiking/running and the encouragement to get out on the water as well.”

“Is there really anything better than Central Maine in all four seasons? I love our access to lakes, the coast, forests, nature, etc.”

“I love the transformation/upkeep of historical buildings in Downtown areas – Downtown Waterville, Augusta, Hallowell, Gardiner, etc.”

“I love that my little town as somewhat of an identity or a signature ‘thing’ about it. There’s great shops and local businesses to support, which I really enjoy.”

“I love that Central Maine is not as congested as other places in the country – that we don’t fight traffic, we’re not packed into suburbs, and we have the opportunity to meet our neighbors.”

“I love that it is way more affordable here than in Portland.”

Keep, but Change: “What’s something you would keep, but change immediately, about Central Maine?”

“I wish I could change the outlook on young people in general, and compensation (because I have student loans to pay).”

“That there’s starting to be a variety of unique restaurants opening in the area, but the chain restaurants seems out number the local restaurants and there’s little to no advertising for these places so unless you stumble upon them you truly miss out.”

“I could keep but would change the amount of involvement opportunities…I know they’re there but I find them difficult to find sometimes.”

“Let’s keep the downtown areas but bring more to them and make them safer. I want to be able to go and do things, and I like the restaurants we have now. I just wish there was more there so I don’t have to drive as far.”

“Keep the small town feel, but bring in some big employers. A lot of people here don’t have quality jobs.”

“I would keep the small towns and the downtown areas – but I would change the big chain restaurants and things like that. I want to support small businesses because I believe it really helps Maine’s economy. Also, can we please just clean things up? Some downtown areas are dingy and dark and dirty. Fix the old broken buildings that are falling down. Sometimes a fresh coat of paint goes really far.”

“Walking and hiking trails, we could use more – maybe even some with tar for bikes, etc.”

“I would like to keep the small town feel, but change the lack of opportunities and advancement in education. We’re severely lagging in opportunities for young people and for future generations.”

“I would keep our local farms, but provide more access to them in the local grocery stores. The produce section at the local grocery store pales in comparison to what I can get at the farmer’s market, but the farmer’s market is only open at inconvenient times or if I miss it that week, I miss it completely.”

“Our craft beer scene in Maine is amazing – let’s keep the breweries we have and bring in more!”

No thanks: “What’s something about Central Maine you would do away with immediately?”
“It is hard being a young person in a state that is aging. I feel like I’m not taken seriously in my job because I’m a millennial, and I can’t get established because the people above me don’t want to change anything about the way work is done or the workplace.”

“I hate the current tax levels and the wage gap between earning and cost of living. It makes it extremely hard for people to value living here with the quality of life when you can barely afford to get by.”

“We need to deal with the opioid crisis. I hate seeing people in need and unable to get the services they need, but I also hate the danger that comes along with it.”

“That there aren’t enough small bars or gathering places in the area that would promote meeting other young people to network or just become friends. Little to no social opportunity in the area I feel like. That’s what I enjoy so much about Portland, the cluster of bars that allow you to jump around and meet people.”

“I can’t stand how young people aren’t as involved in things. I’m not sure if it is lack of opportunity, lack of initiative, or lack of people – but I hate that I don’t see more young people around.”

“I hate that we have no diversity – when I went to college in another state, there were a lot of people with a lot of different views and experiences about the world. We’re missing that.”

“I hate the political bickering we face (but that could just be my political view in general!) – I just want Mainers to work together to solve our own problems.”

“Wages are too low and rent is too high. It is extremely difficult to make a living here in a way that feels like I can comfortably support a family. I’m not sure of the quality of schools in my area, but I know that if I moved further South towards Falmouth, Yarmouth, and Portland that the schools and access to things might be better – but affordability is crazy.”

“Let’s just do away with the phrase ‘Well that’s not how we do it around here.’ I’ve heard that on multiple occasions as a newcomer. I’ve always heard that because I’m ‘from away,’ I’ll never be considered a Mainer. WTF?”

“I would immediately do away with the lack of jobs in the STEM field.”

“I would do away with all of the chain restaurants that keep popping up – love those local cafes/restaurants!”

Join and continue the Conversation at the 2016 Annual Summit 10/19 in Waterville. Of particular interest will be the afternoon panel at the Summit, ‘Maine’s Newest Workforces: Adaptation 101′: A discussion reflecting on the absolute need for and challenges associated with a changing workforce. Hear SOLUTIONS from people who are in the thick of employing immigrants and millennials and from the employees themselves. Register now! 

Follow along @growsmartmaine & #growsmartme