FOR/Maine plan will boost the state’s rural economy, environmental sustainability and create jobs
WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine), a cofounder of the Working Forest Caucus, applauded an action plan released by the Forest Opportunity Roadmap (FOR/Maine) Initiative to grow Maine’s forest economy and increase economic prosperity in rural communities. Supported by funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Maine Timberlands Charitable Trust, the industry-led initiative rolled out a plan 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 Coalition includes a strategic plan to grow Maine’s forest economy by 40% by building on traditional industry strengths like saw logs and paper, and add new layers of innovative products – including eco-friendly chemicals, bio-degradable plastics, and medical and technical products made from nanocellulose – which can be made from the residuals of other wood manufacturing processes.
“Maine’s forests continue to be a vital part of our state’s economy,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “The FOR/Maine Initiative is the product of collaboration between industry and community leaders, the Economic Development Administration, and all levels of government, and the resulting recommendations will support job creation and economic growth in our rural communities. We applaud the Forest Opportunity Roadmap partners for their hard work, creativity, and steadfast commitment to strengthening the future of the forest economy in our state, and we look forward to continuing to support their efforts to help Maine’s forest economy thrive for generations to come.”
FOR/Maine outlines five goals to build a more diverse forest economy:
· Invest, Innovate, Grow - Sustain and grow Maine’s existing and emerging forest products economy.
· Manage Sustainably - Manage the wood resource using sustainable and responsible forest management practices.
· Develop Workforce - Prepare workforce for the future of the forest products economy.
· Support Communities - Increase prosperity in Maine forest economy communities, especially those in rural areas and those affected by mill closures.
· Coordinate & Persist - Organize the forest products industry with committed public sector partners, including the University of Maine, to implement the vision and goals.
In 2016, Senators Collins and King called on the U.S. Department of Commerce to establish the Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT), that would work across agencies and sectors to create strategies for job growth and economic development in Maine’s rural communities. The creation of the EDAT and its subsequent studies and research led to the EDA and the U.S. Forest Service providing funding for the 2018 FOR/Maine Initiative.
The EDA leads the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation's regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. As an agency within the Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.