Periodically, Bangor goes through this passionate phase of growth in which it wants — no, yearns — to retain and attract a youth contingent. Ideas are tossed around and people raise their voices to talk sternly about concepts like “brain drain” and “aging workforce.” Then there’s BUREAUCRACY and “someone-else-was-supposed-to-do-it”‘s and in the end, not a lot of ideas end up being actionated on. Yes, I made that word up.
Most recently, Bangor City Council Chairman Ben Sprague published “A Population Growth Strategy for Bangor,” a collection of visions and quite-good ideas for keeping talent here, attracting new talent, and nudging Bangor further along into the 21st century.
He makes good points with good ideas. The Bangor Daily News published a positive editorial about it that I mostly agree with, as well. Out of all the starts, this is one of the best, and Sprague is most likely the guy to make action happen.
In all of this fervor, however, something’s getting overlooked. The AARP last year voted Bangor as one of the ten best places to retire on a budget. Most recently, a Huffington Post blogger published another list of ten great places to retire in Maine, including, you guessed it, Bangor.
I was always taught to play to your strengths (and later, as a business person, to listen to your customer first).
I half expect to be pilloried for this opinion, but here it goes: in addition to courting a nebulous youth contingent, let’s actively develop the retirement market as well.
Bangor is actively being recognized as a retirement destination. You can’t say the same with the youth market. Courting the retiree market would be similar to market penetration; courting the youth market, on the other hand, is closest to market development. In pure business terms, penetration is a lot easier and less risky than development.
Additionally, retirees who have the income and the means to relocate to Bangor would bring with them a disposable income. This is money that can be spent in our fine local dining establishments, at the Penobscot Theatre, and in our art galleries — all amenities touted by the aforementioned articles. Additionally, an older demographic brings along family gatherings and visits from away.
Perhaps most compelling, there’s an entire infrastructure that would develop solely to support a retirement community. Healthcare services, technical services, facilities support, transportation — industries that would employ a younger demographic with the necessary critical skills.
You can take it further. Maine is an aging state. That’s established and often discussed. One way to capitalize on this is to court and develop industries that target this market rather than fighting it tooth and nail. We need to develop 21st century industry in this area, but that’s not all web development and entrepreneurs with cool new tech products. That also means organizations to develop and manufacture medical technologies that help our aging community.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t attract and retain our young talent. We should move ahead with that plan, quickly. It’s vital. Attracting and supporting nothing but an aged population will put devastating pressure on our city and state. In order to move ahead, grow, or even just maintain the status quo, we need innovative young talent to do it. That’s a topic for another article, and for another discussion with loud, terse voices.
The fact remains we have an opportunity staring us right in the face. Rather than ignore it, I wonder if we should embrace it.