AUGUSTA — The last governor wanted businessmen to feel at home in Maine. The state’s new chief executive wants everyone to.

Maine is moving forward with plans to replace its “Open for Business” highway sign with one that reads “Welcome Home,” as part of Democrat Janet Mills’ push to attract a more diverse population, including immigrants and young people, to the aging, rural state.

Maine Turnpike Authority Executive Director Peter Mills said Wednesday that Maine is designing a replacement for the sign that greets drivers entering the state on the Maine Turnpike in Kittery. He said it will take roughly three weeks to replace the old sign, put up by Mills’ predecessor, once a new design is finalized.

Mills, Maine’s first female governor, has promised to usher in a more welcoming era following the administration of Republican Gov. Paul LePage, a businessman who decried welfare for immigrants who were in the country legally and falsely claimed most drug dealers arrested in Maine are black or Hispanic. Mills mentioned the new sign in her inaugural address last week.

“Gov. Mills wants to send a clear message: Maine is a great place to live, work and raise a family – it’s a great place to call home,” said spokesman Scott Ogden. “And she looks forward to having that sentiment greet people as they enter our state.”

Peter Mills, who is the governor’s brother, says the new sign will incorporate the new governor’s suggested slogan. Several designs are being considered, he said, including one that simply reads: “Maine: Welcome Home.”

“I would say there’s a sense that Maine needs to get beyond the Vacationland image,” he said, referring to the state’s license plate slogan. “Not that we shouldn’t be Vacationland, but we should be something more to people.”

Maine’s new governor has vowed to attract young people to boost the workforce at a time when the state’s population is rapidly aging and many young people are choosing to leave . About 48,000 more people a year will need to come to the state to sustain its population between 2031 and 2036, according to a state economist.

Several initiatives, including “Live and Work in Maine,” are aimed at attracting new residents and businesses to Maine. Meanwhile, Democrats, who are now in control of both the state Senate and House, have pushed bills this year to attract newcomers through tax credits and student debt relief. Another proposed bill would change Maine’s license plate slogan from “Vacationland” to “Staycationland.”

Visitors to Maine are currently greeted by a litany of messages pushed by past administrations.

Brown signs on the state’s highway tell those leaving and entering the state: “Maine. Worth a visit. Worth a lifetime.” Peter Mills said those signs, which are starting to show their age, were put up by former Gov. Angus King, now a U.S. senator.

Farther along the highway, the blue sign in Kittery reads: “Welcome to Maine The Way Life Should Be,” above a smaller, attached sign that has the words: “Open for Business.”

“Welcome to Maine The Way Life Should Be” dates to a 1990 tourism campaign.

Tourism has boomed in recent years: 36.7 million tourists visited Maine in 2017, up from 27.9 million in 2012.

LePage added the “Open for Business” sign shortly after taking office.

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