Collins, King Announce Nearly $500,000 for Rural Economic Development

Funding will support rural community redevelopment efforts in Maine’s forest economy.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine) announced that the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), a bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce, has awarded $446,757 in federal funding to the Maine Development Foundation (MDF) to support and assist the economic efforts of rural Maine communities who have been negatively affected by mill closures. This summer, the senators celebrated the reopening of the historic Old Town Mill and lauded an announcement that the former Madison paper mill has been purchased by GO Lab Inc.


“Maine people have long relied on the forest industry to support their livelihoods and provide for their families,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “We welcome this funding which will help the Maine Development Foundation continue it’s important mission to support Maine people and rural communities, and create new opportunities for those who work in Maine’s forest products industry.”


“From the very beginning the EDAT, and subsequent Forest Opportunity Roadmap Initiative, has been a productive industry-community partnership, as current and recovering forest economy mill towns from the County to the Penobscot River valley to western Maine have been working urgently to stabilize and diversify viable local economies and vibrant communities,” said Yellow Light Breen, President and CEO of the Maine Development Foundation. “With this additional investment from the EDA, we are empowered and committed to continue to provide critical support and access to expertise and investment opportunities to over a dozen forest mill communities across Maine as they work locally to sustain and attract the next generation of forest economy businesses and redevelop to build resiliency and diversification around that core.”


Collins and King are strong supporters of revitalizing Maine’s forest economy, and were instrumental in establishing the Forest Opportunity Roadmap (FOR/Maine) Initiative, an industry-led initiative that is helping to diversify the state’s wood products businesses, attract investments, and develop greater economic prosperity for rural communities impacted by mill closures. The FOR/Maine Initiative was funded in part by the Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT) requested by the Senators in 2016 in order to create strategies for job growth and economic development in Maine’s rural communities. The EDAT recommended the development of new markets for Maine’s forest resources, including the strengthening of existing forest products manufacturing, the attraction of investment in emerging technology, and the utilization of forest products residuals in CHP biomass plants, microgrids, modern thermal systems, and new forest products development. In 2016, the EDA awarded MDF funding to support, coordinate and track long-term economic recovery efforts that result from findings and recommendations made by the August 2016 Maine Forest Economy EDAT Team.


The FOR/Maine Initiative has helped many organizations who are working to bolster Maine’s forest industry receive federal funding. Last month, the senators announced that the National Science Foundation (NSF) had awarded $6,000,000 to the University of Maine (UMaine) to help create a digital monitoring system that will help users better assess, understand and forecast changes that directly impact the future of Maine’s forest economy.


In May, Senators Collins and King applauded a partnership between Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the University of Maine to launch a first in the nation large-scale bio-based additive manufacturing program within UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC). The collaboration will provide ASCC students, faculty and associated companies with access to ORNL’s assets and expertise in advanced manufacturing. ORNL researchers, in turn, will gain access to UMaine’s facilities and expertise in sustainable composites. The partnership will advance 3D printing capabilities with wood residuals, establishing Maine as a global leader in a new manufacturing process and developing fresh markets for Maine’s forest products industry.