What makes Midcoast Maine attractive to young professionals? Is the Midcoast a “cool” place? How can the area draw entrepreneurs and creative people to our region and keep our young people here?

These are some of the questions being asked by “Midcoast Magnet,” a local task force established this year with the goal of developing the Creative Economy of the Midcoast region.

The group is composed of young creative professionals from the midcoast region and is co-chaired by State Representatives Hannah Pingree (D-North Haven) and Stephen Bowen (R-Rockport).

“The whole state is facing economic transformation, and we need to be thinking about what has to happen to bring more jobs here in order to sustain the economy,” said Bowen. “The survey we are conducting and the analysis to follow will tell us how to attract talented people who will create those jobs for us.”

The motivation for the group’s work came from recent discussions of the “creative economy,” an innovative approach to community economic development. The idea has been championed by economist and author Richard Florida in his book “The Rise of the Creative Class.” Florida’s research indicates that businesses follow creative people; in turn, the communities that attract and retain creative professionals will benefit the most.

The Baldacci Administration and the Maine Arts Commission promoted this concept through the Blaine House Conference on Maine’s Creative Economy earlier this year. After hearing Richard Florida speak at the conference in April, a group of local business and community leaders began researching how they could inspire a Creative Economy movement right here in the Midcoast. Florida’s research shows that talented “knowledge industry workers” are attracted to “energetic and vibrant places”– a characteristic that Florida calls “coolness of place.”

The Midcoast group quickly realized that if their area is to become a “cool” place that is attractive to young, talented professionals, then the effort must be developed and managed by the young talented people already here in the Midcoast. Several cities throughout the United States have begun a similar process. In fact, the Midcoast Magnet project is modeled on efforts currently underway in Cincinnati and Memphis.

The Breakwater Group, an economic and community development consulting firm located in Rockland, is sponsoring the taskforce. “The theory is that if we can make a place that is welcoming to creative people, those in the arts, in design, in software development and so forth?they’ll come here and bring good jobs with them”, said Alan Hinsey of The Breakwater Group.

Already armed with national statistics, the group is in the process of gathering local data. In October the group launched a website and an online survey. The questionnaire asks respondents what they find attractive about the Midcoast area and what they would like to see changed. The group will conduct focus groups later in the fall and present a report of their findings and recommendations for community leaders and state officials.

“We are hoping to get an idea of what makes Midcoast Maine a cool place to live,” said Pingree, the group’s co-chairman. “We want to keep our young people here, and to do that, we need to build the kind of communities they want to live in.”

To participate in the survey, or for more information, visit midcoastmagnet.com. For interviews or to arrange to attend a Midcoast Magnet meeting, email Maggi Blue at maggi@breakwater1.com or call 594-0666.