I’ve noticed that in Maine we tend to look backward in order to identify our future economy.

We work hard to create new ways to finance the future of the fishing industry—more processing, value-added products, more efficient boats, all atop constantly evolving conservation-oriented management practices. At some level, it just makes sense. We love our fishing communities, we revere fishermen, and we cling to the identity that accompanies having natural resource harvesters as part of our communities. We want everyone to capture more value from his or her catch.

Along the coast, waterfront communities are working to attract companies that provide good jobs. One state priority has been to increase manufacturing jobs along the coast through attracting and investing in lobster processing. The last two governors have had this as a priority.

Lobster processors offer good seasonal jobs, up to eight months per year. Their pay starts from $10 per hour up to $13 per hour and offers overtime opportunities. This means that employees can make between $15,000 and $20,000 per year on the low end, and up to $10,000 more if employees work 50 hours per week, with 10 hours of overtime.

The work can be cold and wet. Seafood processing has been this way for centuries, although the working conditions are much improved. Larger processors have the ability to smooth out supplies among multiple plants to keep people employed for more months of the year, and there are occasional off-season jobs for those who are chosen to help upgrade facilities.

The transition of the iconic Stinson sardine cannery in Prospect Harbor to what is now the state’s largest lobster processing operation, Maine Fair Trade Lobster, stands out among these efforts. When the time came to make this deal happen, Machias Savings Bank, Coastal Enterprises Inc. and the state, through the Community Development Block Grant program, pulled together to make it possible.

Maine Fair Trade lobster is owned by East Coast Seafood and Garbo Lobster. East Coast handles processing, sales and marketing, while Garbo handles product procurement. Filling jobs and procuring enough lobster are the respective challenges that these partners face as they build the company.

Maine Fair Trade Lobster is nearing having 200 employees. In order to hire enough people, the company is partnering with Washington Hancock Community Agency to bus people in from Machias, Bangor and Ellsworth and is even considering reaching out as far as Eastport.

Maine Fair Trade Lobster is only in its second year of operation. The company has a great deal of room to grow. Where then, are the employees going to come from next?

East Coast’s other big lobster processing plant is on Deer Island, just across from Eastport, in New Brunswick. It has over 200 employees, in an island community with a population of just over 900 people. It is fair to assume that this is a company that has dealt with labor shortages in remote areas.

What did East Coast do to fill these jobs? First, it worked hard to fill the jobs with local residents who wanted the work. Once the company was no longer able to find local workers, it hired Filipino workers on a visa program set up by the Canadian government. This process began back in 2011 with a dozen or so workers. Today, the Filipino community on Deer Island is a major component of East Coast’s labor force and an important economic engine in the local community.

The same challenges lie ahead for Maine Fair Trade lobster. The Bangor Daily News reports that Maine Fair Trade Lobster will need upwards of 300 employees in the next two to three years. Where will the remainder of the workers come from once it’s hired everyone who wants these jobs out of the local community? Longer bus routes? Unlikely. Could processing be built closer to population centers? This might be an option.

Another option is for a portion of Maine’s workforce to become flexible enough to fill other seasonal harvesting jobs. Washington County is fortunate to have groups like Mano en Mano focused on providing year round housing to agricultural and fisheries workers who live year round in Maine.

As processing plants grow, so, too will their staffing needs. Our communities will benefit as new employees take root in the surrounding communities, becoming part of an industry that anchored our coastal economy last century and that is being recreated today.

Rob Snyder is president of the Island Institute, the nonprofit that publishes The Working Waterfront. Follow Rob on Twitter: ProOutsider.