PORTLAND, Maine — Businesses across all industries in Maine suffered hardships like never before during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. While some were forced to turn off the lights, some manufacturing companies ramped up production.
Lisa Martin is the executive director of the Manufacturers Association of Maine (MAME) and said the state relied heavily on the industry in the past 18 months.
“Almost everything is manufactured, everything is made," she said. “Based on the economic forecast, that manufacturing really held the economy in the state of Maine together.”
Many of those businesses pivoted to help Maine people by using existing machinery and resources to make masks, hand sanitizer, or other personal protective equipment.
Now the industry is looking towards the future in an effort to attract the next wave of its workforce. Every October, MAME runs a program to show off manufacturing companies to local middle and high school students as well as educators and community members.
Since 2012, 14,500 Mainers have toured more than 400 companies around Maine in an effort to show younger students the advantages of the industry.
“In the last two years, obviously, we pivoted and gone to virtual tours so that the students could be sitting in their classroom at home and be talking and interacting with companies all over the state," Martin said.
John Belding is the director of advanced manufacturing at the University of Maine in Orono. His students at the college level are able to take advantage of all the open positions in the state.
“We do not have enough engineers here in the state of Maine to support the manufacturing that we’re currently doing, unfortunately," Belding added.“ We’ve seen increases in a lot of the students that we do train here at the center are staying in the state of Maine.”
Both Martin and Belding add the manufacturing sector is not what it used to be. New technology has transformed the industry which they say can attract younger Mainers who have a knack for data, technology, and other skills.