Scott Longfellow

President, Longfellow’s Greenhouses, Manchester, November 2017

Labor is by far our greatest challenge. So much of what we do requires labor. Finding enough labor has become very difficult during our busy spring season. We’re very fortunate to have the great employees we have, and we spend a great deal of time and effort to find the perfect employees when hiring for our very demanding work needs. We have approximately 90 employees working at Longfellow’s during our peak season. Thirty are new seasonal employees hired every spring season, 30 or so return as seasonal employees, and we keep about 30 people employed year-round. The cost of our labor has gone up dramatically this past year, and we expect it to continue to spiral upward over the next couple years. All employers are looking for employees from the same pool, and everyone is raising their wages to compete for those workers. What was once a $10-an-hour job is now a $12-an-hour job. When the minimum-wage increase goes from $11 to $12, it will have (another) impact on the expense of labor. I don’t feel it’s not justified, but it has gone up a lot in a short period of time.

Along with substantial increases in the hourly wage, health insurance provided to our employees is one of the bigger contributors to our labor expense, and we are expecting another large increase in the upcoming year.

Rodney Bailey

Owner, Bailey’s Orchards, Whitefield, March 2018

Finding qualified workforce. There is a lack of younger people entering the workforce. It is a numbers thing and a skills thing.

The big push (is) for college, and we have been discounting the value of technical training. A plumber could be trained and could easily set up his own shop and have his own company and do very well, or work for someone else and still do very well.

In the bigger picture, college isn’t for some people. They don’t want to do work behind a desk. They like to work outside or work with their hands.

Our buildings and libraries and schools are not going to be building themselves. There won’t be robotics there. And when the roof leaks, who fixes the leaks? Who’s going to fix our cars?

We haven’t done a good job telling people these jobs are good jobs with good benefits and they are local. I hear of college graduates having a hard time finding a good-paying job. But I guarantee you, if you graduate from a technical school with a certificate or a degree, you will find a good-paying job.

I work hard myself, and my son and daughter both work for us in the fall, but they have full-time jobs.

Kimberly Schofield

Owner, Uncorked Wine & Cheese, Augusta, November 2018

Space. For my business, more space.

One of the biggest physical challenges I have is parking. People find it intimidating if they haven’t been here before. People don’t know how to get in and out of here. I would like to have more space at the juncture, and I haven’t figured out the route I want to take with it.

I have been looking at growth almost the entire time I have been here. I show growth across the board, and I have pretty much maxed out what I can do with the space I have right here. It’s not always double-digit growth, but for the most part it’s been double-digit growth.

I started the business in October 2010. I had owned two businesses in the past. Prior to moving back to Maine — I had been living in Boston for the last 12 years, and my last position was with a restaurant group — this all kind of happened on the fly. I had no time to write a business plan. It was too much on the fly, but having the background I have, I wasn’t concerned about a business plan per se.

Looking at my future, I have been successfully working on a new business plan that is extremely comprehensive.

One of the biggest challenges is honest-to-goodness dealing with banks. It is ugly to small business. Another thing that people don’t understand is that when we talk about small business, the media, the government and the public perception is that small business is anything under 300 employees. So I am not a small business; I am a micro-business. Of course, banks want to loan to businesses with 300 to 500 employees; that’s easy. It’s much more challenging when you are a single owner and employee.

Richard Hopper

President, Kennebec Valley Community College, May 2018

It’s the tight labor market. We’re experiencing the lowest unemployment in my lifetime. Everyone who wants a job has a job. When people are employed or can find work easily, they are far less likely to seek out higher education or additional skills, because they are comfortable where they are.

The economy runs in cycles and a recession is eventually going to hit. Some people will lose their jobs, and only then will they seek out higher education or seek out the opportunity to develop their skills.

People should be constantly seeking out knowledge.

My challenge is to convince happy, employed folks to position themselves for when the economy is not as good. I encourage people to make hay while the sun shines rather than wait until they are unhappy. Just because you are comfortable doesn’t mean you should remain complacent.

Lori Yotides

Owner, Spiro and Co., Belgrade, July 2018

Expanding the business. We would actually like to have a permanent location versus a food truck. We are bursting out. Our volume is too big. We’ve been in business five years. This summer, we’re like: We’ve got to move. Most of our advertising that we do, with the paper — with the paper a little bit — but most of it is word-of-mouth. We have customers that drive up from Portland for our food, all over the state. I don’t know if you know anything about me, but it’s all handmade, organic, all natural, fresh. People just love us. They’re like, “Where’s your restaurant? Where’s your restaurant? Where’s your restaurant?” Normally, a food truck has a restaurant. There’s so much more than I could do, but I am limited to the space that I have. There’s so much more than I could offer.

We’re always looking (for a restaurant location). We’re looking at one this week. If the right spot hits us, and it fits what we’re looking for, we would do it. It would be this fall. If the right opportunity knocks at our door, we would take it.

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