Maine gaining population – finally


LEWISTON – Peter Bouman has everything: a thriving dermatology practice, designs on a state-of-the-art facility at the Bates Mill complex, a happy wife, plans for children.

For it all, he credits a move to Maine.

“There’s no traffic. There’s no crowds. There are good schools. There are kind and decent people,” said Bouman, who moved to Maine from Miami last July. “Maine lives up to its reputation.”

According to the U.S. Census, more and more people feel the same way.

For the first time in more than a decade, more people are moving into Maine than are moving out. In the 1990s, the state lost hundreds of people a year. Between 2000 and 2004, it gained more than 8,000 a year.

Maine is now the fifth fastest growing state in the country.

It is particularly good news for Androscoggin, Franklin and Kennebec counties. While southern and coastal counties were able to attract some residents even in the 1990s, the central and western counties weren’t. But they’re getting new people now.

State officials attribute the trend to Maine’s quality of life and increased technology, which allows people to work online and live anyplace they’d like.

“And there’s just the natural beauty of the state,” said Crystal Canney, spokeswoman for the governor’s office.

Recent transplants also say their favorite recreation, such as hiking and skiing, helped bring them to Maine. So did Maine’s relative low cost of living, even with high taxes.

Jay Collier, 42, credits a job opportunity – he’s Bates College’s new Web communications manager – and the French-Canadian culture for luring him from New Hampshire.

“So many of my interests could be met here in Maine,” he said.

Bouman, the dermatologist, came to Maine at his wife’s urging. He was working as a doctor in Miami, where decent medical space goes for $30 a square foot, where the phone book is filled with dermatologists just like him, where the weather turns from hot to sweltering.

In western Maine he found a dire need of dermatologists. He set up in Lewiston and in less than a year his practice was thriving.

Bouman is doing so well that he plans to move to a bigger, state-of-the-art facility at the Bates Mill complex in about a week. There, space went for $10 to $15 a square foot, half of what he would have paid in Miami.

He likes the cooler weather in Maine. He likes the wilderness and water.

He dreams of raising kids around it all.

“I want them to be good and decent people. To do that we have to be near those people and you’ll find them more here than in south Florida,” he said.