BANGOR (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- Maine is facing a workforce challenge.
There are too many aging workers going into retirement and too few young professionals to take their place.
Maine is working to fill its employment gap by making the option of living and working in the state too good to pass up.
"Help employers attract and then retain workforce that they need to thrive into the future," said Nate Wildes, of his job as the Engagement Director for Live and Work in Maine, a private sector organization which markets Maine as a career destination to employers and employees.
"Helping employers to get access to the right people," added Wildes. "Raising awareness, making sure that everybody knows there's opportunities here, and then lowering the barrier that they face in attracting them here in the first place."
This is where the Educational Opportunity Tax Credit program comes in.
Also called Opportunity Maine, the program allows recent college graduates to use their student loan payments as tax credits.
It has put money back into recent graduate's pockets since 2008, but its original purpose didn't go far enough.
"Even if 100% of every single college graduate chose to stay here in the state, which is not realistic, but even if that was the case, it still wouldn't fulfill our workforce needs," said Wildes.
The expansion of this existing program makes more young people eligible and could lead to more money in your pocket.
"I think it's fantastic," said Matthew Glatz, a small business owner who is already taking advantage of the tax credit program. "I think that any incentive the state can get to bring people back to Maine."
People not from Maine or who didn't even go to school here but who move here to live and work.
"Convincing young people who are adamant on starting their own business, working for themselves, to come live and work here," said Glatz.
What originally started as a retention tool to keep college students in the state after graduation is also now an incentive Maine employers can use when recruiting out of state talent.
Some even see it as a signing bonus.
"It doesn't penalize you for leaving Maine, so if you choose after graduation to leave Maine for a year or two, gain skill, work for a job down in Boston, New York, wherever, go do that," said Wildes. "You'll be more valuable to Maine employers when you choose to come back and whenever you choose to come back, so long as you still have student debt, the tax credit applies."
"You decide the monthly amount that you're able of paying," said Glatz.
"If your diploma says 2016 plus, all you have to do is go to any college or university in the United States," added Wildes. "It doesn't matter where you went to school, as long as you end up living and working in Maine fulltime, that's what matters."
The expansion of the program is so new that recent graduates from out-of-state are just now able to take advantage of it.
Supporters are hopeful this program is the answer to Maine's ongoing workforce challenge.