Yarmouth resident's focus is Maine job creation, growth

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YARMOUTH — Kimberly Hamilton hopes to hone the skills she’s acquired from working for humanitarian organizations around the U.S. in her new role leading a Maine nonprofit’s effort to accelerate job creation. 

Hamilton became the first president of FocusMaine last October. Launched in 2014, FocusMaine concentrates on the state’s capacity to compete in and contribute to a global economy.

Previously she was chief impact officer at Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization. Hamilton also previously served in a variety of senior roles at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other policy and research organizations. 

Hamilton said as president, she’s prioritizing FocusMaine’s goal to create 20,000-30,000 jobs in three signature industries – aquaculture, agriculture and biopharmaceuticals – specifically those that offer “traded jobs,” which produce goods or services that are sold primarily outside of the state. 

According to Hamilton, traded jobs have higher rates of full-time work, pay 50 percent higher wages than local jobs, and each new job in a traded industry creates, on average, an additional 1.6 new jobs in the local economy. Maine has a lower share of traded jobs than the rest of the U.S., and that share has been declining, she said.

“I just feel a huge responsibility to FocusMaine’s mission and I feel honored to have been selected,” Hamilton said in a Jan. 8 interview. “I feel like this position is a really great fit with my skill set.”

Having grown up in North Yarmouth, Hamilton now resides in Yarmouth. She said she was brought back to the area by family roots she has in Chebeague Island and Raymond.  

“I’ve done a lot of that on the global stage, so I’m really excited to work in my home state,” she said. “In some ways it feels like familiar territory, but it’s also new and exciting.”

Although she said she still feels new to the position and hasn’t established a routine, Hamilton said she has enjoyed getting reacquainted with the state and familiarizing herself with FocusMaine’s program partners: Coastal Enterprises, Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development, Gulf of Maine Research Institute, and the Maine Aquaculture Association. 

While she said there is a lot about Maine that hasn’t changed, Hamilton feels it is important to acknowledge the state’s “urgent demographic situation.”

According to a FocusMaine news release, Maine ranks 47th in the country in job growth, due in part to an aging workforce and relatively flat population projections.

Hamilton said her focus is looking closely at how the company can get people excited to move to Maine and stay in Maine. 

“People have a big love for this state,” Hamilton said. “And having a good job is really a key part of building a better future. There’s this new optimism in the state … and a growing interest in local foods, which feels like a good opportunity to tap into job creation.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.