Maine Outside Manufacturers launches advisory board to bolster workforce

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Five years after the founding of Maine Outdoor Brands, the Portland-based nonprofit trade alliance is establishing a workforce advisory board to support the industry’s efforts to attract, retain and build an inclusive workforce.

Maine Outdoor Brands, led by Executive Director Jenny Kordick, currently has more than 150 members, ranging from new startups to established brands like LL, Bean Inc. and Flowfold.

Maine Outdoor Brands’ new 10-member Human Resources Advisory Board will be co-chaired by Devin McNeill, co-founder and CEO of Flowfold and a 2019 Mainebiz Next List honoree; and Ponch Membreño, who serves on the Board of Directors of Maine Outdoor Brands and works with emerging outdoor product and retail companies.

File Photo Courtesy / Flowfold

Flowfold CEO Devin McNeill

“As a new group, we’re really trying to pay attention to what the needs and opportunities are, where we can best support the Maine outdoor economy and workforce, and to focus on where we can make the greatest impact,” said McNeill to Mainebiz.

“There are so many different opportunities within the industry and we hope to help build ramps into the industry while also developing and building the skills of people already working in the industry.”

Referring to Flowfold’s own workforce, McNeill said the company currently has 19 employees in Gorham and has continued to be able to grow its business and take on contract manufacturing to support other companies making products domestically.

“We have such talented people who have brought new opportunities to our company,” he said.

“Important” work for Maine

At Maine Outdoor Brands, the new HR Advisory Board plans to develop an employment guide with resources and best practices, increase the reach of the organization’s job board, host briefings for members, and create career paths in Maine’s outdoor industry for students and others.

“We see that passion for outdoor recreation fuels professional pursuits, and these pursuits continue to fuel that passion,” said Kordick. “The work of this advisory board is not only important for our industry, but for the whole country, because we want to attract and retain young talent.”

A survey of the organization’s members conducted in early 2021 found that while employers in Maine’s outdoor industry are attracting a younger workforce, filling vacancies remains a challenge.

The survey also found that half of the new hires reported by employers in the outdoor industry are under the age of 35; 71% of respondents reported difficulties finding qualified applicants for vacancies; and Marketing, Customer Service/Hospitality, and Leadership roles are expected to be the most in-demand roles over the next five years.

In addition to the two Co-Chairs, members of Maine Outdoor Brands’ new Human Resources Advisory Board include: Sterling Rope’s Phil Shettig; Maureen Lafferty of LLBean; Libbi Cinti of the Appalachian Mountain Club; Teens to Trails’ Alicia Heyburn; Willard Morgan of Chewonki; Will White of Summit Achievement; Stacey Keefer of the Maine Marine Trades Association; and Alvah Maloney, owner of Maine Kayak.