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Construction staffing: Placement firm sees great potential for state in unlikely employee pool

BY William Hall

1/7/2019
Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Margo Walsh, founder of MaineWorks

Margo Walsh knows a thing or two about turnarounds. In 2010, she launched her industrial staffing company, MaineWorks, and focused on a seemingly unlikely employee pool — people with substance abuse problems, prison records and other obstacles to re-entering the workforce. Since then, Portland-based MaineWorks has matched hundreds of these men and women with jobs in construction, roadwork, landscaping and other fields.

Now Walsh sees turnaround potential during 2019 in two areas many people feel have long been challenges for Maine: attracting new residents, especially younger ones, and making the state more conducive to business.

With a little encouragement, according to Walsh, people will flock to Maine because they are drawn to the quality-of-life found in its small cities, villages and rural areas.

“[Communities] in Maine are starting to be reinvigorated because as a society, we crave the vestiges of small-town life. And millennials are feeling that too,” she says.

Younger workers, she adds, are accustomed to using technology to work remotely, and are “indifferent” to an employer's physical location. What's more important to them is Maine's lifestyle, plus the chance to do innovative work.

“And there's incredible innovation happening in Maine,” she says. “We just need to be inviting younger workers wholly into the state.”

Walsh also says she believes Maine can change the perception that doing business here is “cumbersome and expensive.” But it's up to the business community to identify and implement practical fixes.

“The willingness to change needs to be directed,” she says. “We need to say, 'Here's your chance to get started, what needs to be addressed?'”

One change she suggests is for businesses to consider seeking certified B Corp status, a designation showing they meet high legal standards for their social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. MaineWorks is currently one of about 2,600 Certified B Corporations throughout the world, and one of four in Maine. (The others are Atayne LLC, of Brunswick; Coffee By Design, of Portland; and Wicked Joe Organic Coffees, of Topsham.)

Walsh, who was part of the 2014 Mainebiz Women to Watch class, believes the B Corp designation is a way to demonstrate that businesses can be both socially responsible and successful in the year ahead.

“We should be a B Corp state,” she says.