ORONO, ME – During a joint press conference at the University of Maine at Orono today, U.S. Senators Angus King and Susan Collins and Representative Bruce Poliquin announced that the Economic Development Assessment Team, known as an EDAT, will deploy to Maine from August 17th-19th. The multiagency EDAT, announced by the Department of Commerce earlier this summer, will be beginning its work with the forest products industry to create economic development strategies aimed at growing Maine’s forest economy in the wake of several mill closures over the past few years.
During the press conference, Senators King and Collins and Representative Poliquin also announced several significant federal grants from multiple federal agencies. The Economic Development Administration will provide $4.4 million in grant funding to strengthen and support innovation, manufacturing, and economic development initiatives across Maine. In addition, the Department of Defense will award a $3.3 million grant to the UMaine Forest Bioproducts Research Institute for Wood to Jet Fuel, bringing the total investment to $7.7 million.
“The forest products industry is a cornerstone of Maine’s economy, and just as it has been a defining part of our heritage, it will continue to be a vital part of our future too,” Senators King and Collins and Representative Poliquin said in a joint statement. “We are pleased that the Economic Development Assessment Team will be coming to Maine next month and we look forward to them working closely with the men and women who know our forests best to chart a roadmap to renewed economic growth. Many of these grants will play a helpful role in fostering that growth and we applaud the recipients who will transform funding into innovative strategies and tools that will form the foundation of a world-class, 21stcentury forest economy in Maine.”
Senators King and Collins and Representative Poliquin were joined today at the press conference by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce Matt Erskine, University of Maine President Susan Hunter, University of Maine Director of Economic Development Initiatives Renee Kelly, and Maine Development Foundation President and CEO Yellow Breen, as well as representatives from the forest products industry, including James Chittum of Grow-Tech who is a Member of the Bio-Based Maine Board, and Jim Contino of Verso Paper.
The EDAT, which Senators King and Collins originally requested in March 2016, is an integrated, multiagency team that will bring together local, state, and federal partners to work together to build a bottom-up strategy to foster innovation and commercialization for the future of Maine’s forest-based economy.
During the three-day EDAT visit in August, regional leaders and economic development experts, alongside officials from federal partners – including the U.S. Departments of Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Transportation, and Energy; and the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration, and the Northern Border Regional Commission – will participate in a series of economic development sessions, tours, and briefings.
At the conclusion of the EDAT process, regional and local stakeholders will have a bottom-up strategy, developed with input from the federal partners, designed to foster robust economic growth and recovery.
The complete list of grants announced today are as follows:
Maine Development Foundation; Augusta, Maine: $711,600
This investment will support, coordinate and track long-term economic recovery efforts that result from findings and recommendations made by the August 2016 Maine Forest Economy Economic Development Assessment Team. The Maine Development Foundation and the Maine Economic Growth Council publishes the annual Measures of Growth which benchmarks and tracks Maine’s economic performance in 25 key areas, and is very well suited for coordinating, tracking and reporting on the numerous and disparate activities that will be involved in the forest economy recovery effort at all levels.
Bio-Based Maine; Orono, Maine: $519,930
EDA will invest $519,930 as part of a $856,549 project to Bio-Based Maine, in partnership with the University of Maine, to develop a road map to advance biobased manufacturing, marketing Maine's biobased assets to investors in new technologies and processes, and providing technical assistance to Maine forest products manufacturers and users in the implementation of new biobased technologies. It is anticipated that the cost analysis, technology assessment and market research component of the project could place one or more mills into the production of cellulosic sugars, with 195 or more jobs created.
City of Bangor, Maine (Business Beneficiary: C&L Aerospace): $1,243,004
This investment will support the further expansion of C&L Aerospace which is engaged totally refurbishing commercial turboprop and jet aircraft, and supplying parts and repair services to certain models of aircraft worldwide. As a result of this investment, C&L Aerospace expects to create at least 50 new jobs.
Bangor Target Area Development Corp.; Orono, Maine (Business Beneficiaries: Twin Rivers Paper and Cerahelix Corp.): $345,000
This investment will make interior upgrades within the Target Technology Center to create wet laboratory and supporting space to the Twin Rivers Paper Company and the Cerahelix Corp. Twin Rivers operates one of Maine’s six remaining paper mills (located in Madawaska), which is successfully competing in the paper packaging market, and is relocating its research and development operation from Montreal, Canada, to Orono, Maine, to be closer to the mill and have better access to the University of Maine’s Forest Bioproducts Research Institute. While Twin Rivers will only be on-shoring a few research jobs, the implications and potential impacts of this move are significant, including the retention of 500 paper mill jobs in Madawaska.
Central Maine Community College; Auburn, Maine: $1,595,000
This investment will expand CMCC’s Precision Machining Technology laboratory by 8,600 square feet to accommodate increasing demand for skills training by enrolled students and businesses. CMCC’s Precision Machining Technology Center is the largest such facility in the Northeast, and currently operates on a 24/7 basis to accommodate the increasing demands of enrolled students and businesses which use the facility for employee training, product development, and access to specialized equipment not available within their workplaces. The expanded facility will allow a 20 percent increase in student enrollment, which is critical to meeting the industry’s estimate of 900 high-skill, high-wage precision machining vacancies that will occur during the next five years.
In addition to EDA's grants and EDAT team deployment in August, Deputy Assistant Secretary Erskine also announced today several efforts by other federal partners that will provide support to the Maine economy, including:
Forest Bioproducts Research Institute at the University of Maine: $3,300,000
The Department of Defense’s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) will invest $3.3 million to advance wood to jet fuel technology at the Technology Research Center (TRC) of the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute (FBRI) at the University of Maine. The technology is based on FBRI's patented thermal deoxygenation (TDO) process, which was shown to yield jet fuel test samples that have met key specification.
In order to improve process economics, FBRI will investigate co-production of advanced materials, such as nanocelluose composites, as well as some high-value chemicals from woody biomass and liquid hydrocarbon fuels. This project will explore conversion of cellulose and lignin to liquid hydrocarbon fuels, and use of hemicellose extract and cellulose fiber slip streams for developing high-value co-products.
UMaine’s research approach, based on potential sustainable supply of woody biomass, will provide new opportunities for high-value use as an alternative to direct combustion in biomass power plants, where energy efficiency is often very low. In addition, FBRI plans to finish reassembly of recently relocated biomass hydrolysis pilot plant, for converting biomass into levulinic and formic acids, to keep this unique critical research infrastructure operating in Maine and train students.
The U.S. Department of Energy will provide technical assistance and new market product advice through the programs of its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and its newly created Jobs Strategy Council. Among the specific services offered are:
- Workshops on EERE's financial assistance programs, including Small Business Voucher Program which provides $20 million of technical support in grants of $50,000 to $300,000 to qualifying small businesses seeking the world class expertise of the National Laboratory system to bring the next generation of clean technologies to market and on the Federal Government's Small Business Innovation Research program.
- DOE will encourage participation by the University of Maine in the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), a public-private partnership creating clean energy solutions and catalyzing manufacturing competitiveness across the U.S. advanced composite ecosystem. This partnership of industry, universities, national laboratories and federal, state and local governments is sharing resources and co-investing in innovative research to accelerate development and commercial deployment of advanced fiber reinforced polymer composites.
- EERE supported Industrial Assessment Centers will work with the paper industry in Maine and other small and medium sized manufacturers to provide energy audits identifying energy saving cost reductions. Typically IAC assessments have provided participating manufacturers with specific energy savings recommendations with the potential for up to 8 percent energy reduction strategies and affordable payback ratios.
- EERE supported Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Technical Assistance Program will provide operating paper mills in Maine with feasibility assessments of existing operations to install CHP technology as a strategy to lower costs through generating onsite power.
- In addition, DOE and ORNL will identify long term opportunities for new product development relying on Maine's fiber-based resources.
The U.S. Small Business Administration will provide small business and entrepreneurial training, and host a series of local events focused on increasing access to capital and opportunities to utilize government resources for new and existing small businesses. Last year in Maine, the SBA provided more than $110 million in guaranteed loans, $1.24 billion in small business government contracts, and training and counseling to more than 8,776 clients.