Conference Highlights Role of Foreign Born Workers in Maine Economy Bookmark and Share

March 28, 2008

Bangor - Maine employers and worker advocates will attend an upcoming forum hosted by the Maine Department of Labor on foreign born workers in the Maine economy. The one day session will be held at the Sea Dog Banquet and Conference Center on Tuesday, April 15 from 8:30 A.M. to 3:30 P.M. and will focus on the economic role of foreign born workers in Maine and the impact of Federal immigration policies on Maine employers.

Speakers at the forum include Nicole Witherbee of Maine Center for Economic Policy and Economist Catherine Reilly of the State Planning Office. Witherbee and Reilly will provide background on the industries and occupations where foreign born workers contribute to the Maine economy. Marc Mutty from the Catholic Diocese of Maine will discuss efforts to support new Mainers and dispel myths about their service needs and use. The afternoon session will include a conversation on the impact of U.S. immigration policy on Maine employers, with staff from Maine’s Congressional Delegation in attendance.

Participants will also discuss recent Permanent Visa requests from employers seeking permanent skilled workers for certain industry sectors. Permanent Visas can be issued when the U. S. Department of Labor determines that there are not enough qualified American workers for certain jobs. The group will look at strategies for developing a larger pool of American workers for skilled jobs currently being filled by workers here on visas.

Though their numbers are relatively small, foreign born workers are found in all of Maine’s major economic sectors. They are most heavily concentrated in the agriculture, forestry, food processing, cleaning and maintenance, food service and construction sectors.

Census numbers point to growth in Maine’s foreign born population since 2000. Between 2000 and 2006, Maine’s foreign born population grew by 14 percent, driven largely by a 43 percent increase in the Hispanic/Latino population during that time. But despite Maine’s location along an international border, the state ranks 42nd in the nation in percent of population that is foreign born.

The lack of foreign born population was a concern highlighted in the 2006 Brookings Report. The study noted that unlike other states, Maine has not benefited from population growth stemming from an increase in foreign born residents.

The Maine Department of Labor, Division of Migrant and Immigrant Services coordinates services for migrant and foreign workers in Maine and the employers who hire those workers. For more information about the Foreign Born Worker Conference, please call Linda Nickerson at 207-623-7931 or (TTY: 1-800-794-1110).