Whether it’s just a passing internet meme or a growing movement, the phrase “OK, boomer” should be treated cautiously here in the oldest state in the country. The phrase creates unnecessary generational division at a time when people should be working together across age groups to grow the state’s economy and reverse often worrying demographic trends.
Maine needs cooperation — and yes, debate — among different generations in order to tackle some of those trends. We can do without the millennial snark of “OK, boomer,” and the boomer condescension it purports to take down.
On Wednesday evening at 5:30 p.m., the Bangor Daily News Editorial Board is holding a free event about collaboration on workforce issues at Sea Dog Brewing in Bangor. This conversation, part of our Bangor Daily Brews series, will feature discussions with several different workforce and business professionals who are on the front lines of the effort to retain and attract workers in Maine.
One of the guest speakers is Nate Wildes of Live + Work in Maine, a group that works to promote the career opportunities and quality of life here in order to attract people to the Pine Tree State. A timely initiative from the group is called “boomerang weekend,” which aims to get young people who moved away from Maine for education or work opportunities to think about returning home permanently while they are back visiting for the holidays.
“People who started in Maine and came back are low-hanging fruit for recruitment,” Wildes said in a story in the Portland Press Herald. “They get the quality of life, all we need to do is get them excited in the career opportunities here.”
And it’s not just groups like Live + Work in Maine or Maine Career Connect, a non-profit arm of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce that will also be represented at Wednesday’s BDN event by Bangor Region Director Aubrae Filipiak, that are thinking about how Maine can keep more young professionals in the state and attract more workers from elsewhere.
At the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute’s annual Fall Forum on Tuesday morning in Bangor, Gov. Janet Mills reminded a group of hundreds of young Maine women that they are a critical part of the state’s future.
“I want you all to know that we need you here in Maine, we want you here in Maine,” Mills told the group of girls from high schools around the state. “When you leave to take an adventure, leave the state, enjoy some other career paths and whatnot, come back. We need you here, we want you here.”
Maine also needs young people involved in government decision making — such as Democratic Assistant House leader Ryan Fecteau and Republican Assistant House leader Trey Stewart, our first Bangor Daily Brews guest speakers back in February — to help shape policies that will attract young workers to the state.
The state similarly needs the valuable experience and leadership from older generations, and a first-hand understanding from aging Mainers about what policies can help make communities and the state in general for people as they age and stay in the workforce longer.
As more of Maine’s working population moves toward retirement, intergenerational dialogue — including pushback and disagreement — is crucial. But those debates shouldn’t devolve into the intergenerational shade of “OK, boomer.” Meeting Maine’s workforce challenges with workable, durable solutions will require both the experience of older generations and fresh perspective of younger ones. Boomers, young boomerangs, and all other age demographics each have a role to play.
No matter what generation readers belong to, we hope folks will join us Wednesday night in the barrel room at Sea Dog Brewing and be part of the conversation with Filipiak, Wildes and Andy Geaghan of Geaghan’s Pub and Brewery about some of Maine’s workforce challenges and opportunities.