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October 12, 2018

New Aroostook County initiative aims to attract Puerto Rican families

Aroostook County's Northern Maine Growth Initiative, a grassroots collaboration of business, educational, social services and faith-based groups, has been working on plans to attract more families to the region and build the workforce.

Member and Northern Maine Community College President Timothy Crowley told The County that he and other members traveled to Florida this year to provide Catholic Charities USA caseworkers with information on workforce and housing opportunities for Puerto Rican families, with the goal of relocating four Puerto Rican families to Aroostook County by February 2019. Members are planning a similar trip to Connecticut. Many families left Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

"These are people who are looking for work and we have jobs for them right here, not just in the labor and manufacturing industries, but also in health care," Crowley told The County.

Aroostook County's aging demographics and securing the future workforce remain its biggest challenge. Other efforts to reverse that situation have been carried out by Aroostook Partnership, whose recently retired President and CEO Bob Dorsey came on in 2012 with the goal of address Aroostook's demographic decline.

In 2017, Northern Maine Community College and Maine Community Foundation partnered to bring Somali immigrants to Aroostook County to explore agricultural opportunities. That effort stemmed from ideas germinated at a March 2016 conference at the college in which local business and civic leaders spoke about being more proactive in the face of a continuing decline in Aroostook County's workforce.

Aroostook County has faced significant out-migration since the early 1990s.

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