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December 10, 2018
From the Editor

North, south, east and west: Businesses continue to struggle to find workers

A topic that has dominated business talk in the past year has been companies' challenges in finding qualified workers.

As we wrap up 2018 and look toward 2019, that has been the discussion we've replayed over and over.

As Will Hall reports in our cover story, Help Wanted signs are posted everywhere, from restaurants and hotels to construction firms and rest stops. Unemployment is at historic lows. Combined with Maine's aging workforce, good workers are hard to come by.

Clearly, some companies have had an easier time finding employees than others. People continue to move to Maine to take well-paid jobs. But small businesses and low-margin businesses continue to struggle with hiring. They can't compete with higher wages and so they've had to get creative with the perks they offer.

Shrewd employers are offering signing bonuses, 401(k) plans and training programs, hoping to entice potential employees and promote longevity once they're on board.

For our cover story, Will talked with Scott Dugas, who has an excavation and trucking business in Yarmouth. Dugas excavators and heavy equipment are a common sight at construction areas in Cumberland County. Yet Dugas decries the "brutal" job market. His company has dealt with a chronic shortage of workers.

Yet there's an element of his dilemma that other Mainers can probably relate to. Dugas' sense of loyalty to others in the trade won't allow him to raid competitors.

"I might add that most everyone is working. I don't really want to take my competitors' employees because most of us are friends and I don't want to lose my employees to them," Dugas says. "I think the answer is to get employees from areas where there are no jobs — Downeast, northern Maine. The problem is that housing has gotten so costly that those people can't move."

Of course, as Dugas points out, affordable housing is a whole other layer of this issue.

Elsewhere in the issue, Senior Writer Renee Cordes met with employers who are hiring workers with disabilities. And Staff Writer Maureen Milliken talked with the Maine Community College Foundation about its programs to train students for jobs.

As all of us look toward 2019, we wonder which way the economy will turn.

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