Governor Mills Announces $6 Million in Maine Jobs and Stimulus Grants to Support Maine’s Forestry Industry
Over 80% of Maine Technology Institute awards will support the economic recovery of small rural forestry businesses
Governor Janet Mills today announced that 224 Maine forestry companies, the vast majority of them with ten or fewer employees, will receive a total of $6 million in initial grants from the Forest Recovery Initiative of her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan. The grants, which are administered by the Maine Technology Institute, will support Maine’s forest products industry and the people it employs and create and maintain jobs in rural Maine.
The awards will largely support rural logging and trucking businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 224 businesses that received grants, 83% have ten or fewer employees and 80% are located in Aroostook, Penobscot, Somerset, Oxford or Piscataquis counties. The average price is around $27,000. The awards are expected to be handed out in April.
Governor Mills announced the $20 million Forest Recovery Initiative grant program through her Maine Jobs & Recovery plan in November. The Initiative provides financial assistance to companies in the forest products industry that have experienced the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to help them maintain the viability of their business.
“Our forest products industry is the backbone of our economy and the lifeblood of rural Maine communities, employing tens of thousands of hardworking workers who live off our forests, just like previous generations,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I want to ensure that our forest products industry and the jobs it provides remain strong for generations to come. These grants are a direct investment in that goal, in our forest products sector and in rural Maine, helping to support these vital businesses and jobs.
“When the pandemic caused consumers to make different choices about the products they need, Maine’s forest products industry was disproportionately impacted,” said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Ministry of Economic and Community Development. “These grants will strengthen the future of our forest products industry, a vital part of our state’s economy and cultural identity.”
“Our state’s forest products economy is an engine that drives our rural communities,” said Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Amanda Beal. “These grants provide much-needed support to companies in the forestry sector at a critical time.”
“MTI is proud to administer this program, working with our partners at the state level, to ensure this much-needed relief funding gets to the forestry companies that need it most,” said Brian Whitney, president of the Maine Technology Institute. “I commend the MTI team for quickly developing program guidelines, conducting outreach to maximize participation, and diligently processing proposals to ensure proper stewardship of public funds. .”
“Maine Woods Company is grateful to receive the MTI Forest Recovery Initiative Grant Award,” said Scott Ferland, general manager of Maine Woods Company. “This award will help the dedicated employees of Maine Woods Company install cutting-edge technology to control costs while providing the world with an even better product made in Maine. We are grateful to the Governor for recognizing the challenges facing the forest products industry.
“Wells Wood Turning & Finishing is extremely pleased to be one of the recipients of a Forest Restoration Initiative grant.said Chris Chandler, president of Wells Wood Turning & Finishing. “These funds will allow the company to improve both our processes and our productivity in a difficult market. These innovations will allow the company to maintain its position as one of the leading rolling pin manufacturers in the United States. The efficiencies we derive from the improvements we are planning with these funds will benefit our hard-working team members by reducing repetitive tasks and increasing production. We are grateful to everyone at the Advanced Manufacturing Center, Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and MTI for helping to keep this Maine company competitive in a tough Covid economy.
These first grants from the Forestry Recovery Initiative program will help provide direct funding to cover salary costs and expenses; rent or mortgage payments for commercial facilities; utility payments; purchase of personal protective equipment necessary for the company; business related equipment; investments that enhance the company’s ability to mitigate pandemic-related market disruptions; expenses incurred to replenish inventory or other necessary re-opening expenses; and necessary operating expenses.
The Governor and MTI will also launch another round of grants under the program this spring. These subsequent grants will aim to improve market opportunities for Maine lumber, which has suffered severe declines due to market disruptions due to the pandemic, as well as support forward-looking forestry projects that respond to new market demands, provide new sustainable products or otherwise advance the long-term stability of the forest industry. Funds can also support infrastructure upgrades that strengthen the supply chain and help businesses tap into new products and markets.
This next round of grants will have $4 million in funds. The remaining $10 million of the $20 million total for the Forest Restoration Initiative will be awarded in future phases beginning later this year.
The design of the Forestry Recovery Initiative is the result of community and stakeholder engagement, including meetings with members of industry to explore the impact of the pandemic and discuss the types of support needed.
This Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan builds on the Mills administration’s commitment to Maine’s forest products industry. The administration has already awarded $9.4 million in Maine Economic Stimulus Grants to support businesses in the forest economy.
The Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan is the Governor’s plan, approved by the Legislature, to invest nearly $1 billion in Federal American Rescue Plan funds to improve the lives of Maine residents and families, help businesses, create well-paying jobs and build an economy. ready for future prosperity.
It draws heavily on the recommendations of the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee and the state’s 10-year Economic Development Strategy, turning them into concrete actions to improve the lives of Maine residents and strengthen the economy.
Funding for the Jobs Plan is through the Federal American Rescue Plan Act, which allocated $4.5 billion in stimulus funds to Maine in 2021. Coordination of the Jobs Plan is led by the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services and the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future.
To learn more about Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, visit maine.gov/jobsplan.