More than 80 percent of awards from Maine Technology Institute will support the economic recovery of small, rural forestry companies with funding from the federal government’s recovery plan

March 10, 2022

By Ramona du Houx

An astounding 224 Maine forestry companies, the vast majority of them with ten employees or less, will receive a total of $6 million in initial grants from the Forest Recovery Initiative of her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan. The grant awards, which are administered by the Maine Technology Institute, will support Maine’s forest products industry and the people it employs and create and sustain jobs in rural Maine.

The awards will largely support rural logging and trucking firms adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 224 companies awarded grants, 83 percent have ten employees or fewer, and 80 percent are located in Aroostook, Penobscot, Somerset, Oxford, or Piscataquis counties. The average award is approximately $27,000. Awards are expected to be delivered in April.

“Our forest products industry is a cornerstone of our economy and the lifeblood of rural communities across Maine, employing tens of thousands of hardworking folks who make their living from our forests, just like generations before them,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I want to make sure that our forest products industry, and the jobs it provides, remains strong for generations to come. These grants are a direct investment in that goal, in our forest products sector, and in rural Maine, helping sustain these vital businesses and jobs.”

Governor Mills announced the $20 million Forest Recovery Initiative grant program through her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan in November. The Initiative provides financial relief to forest products industry businesses that have experienced negative impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic to help them sustain the viability of their business. The funding comes from the federal government.

“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 are delivering much-needed support to businesses in the forestry sector at a critical time.

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 people and families, help businesses, create good-paying jobs, and build an economy poised for future prosperity.

“Maine Woods Company is grateful to receive the grant award from MTI’s Forestry Recovery Initiative,” 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 delivering an even better Maine made product to the world. We are grateful to the Governor for recognizing the difficulties facing the forest products industry.”

These first grants from the Forestry Recovery Initiative program will help provide direct funding to cover payroll costs and expenses; rent or mortgage payments for business facilities; utility payments; purchase of personal protective equipment required by the business; business-related equipment; investments that strengthen the business’s ability to mitigate pandemic-related market disruptions; expenses incurred to replenish inventory or other necessary reopening expenses; and necessary operating expenses.

The Governor and MTI will also start another round of grants through the program this spring. These subsequent grants will aim to improve market opportunities for Maine timber, which has suffered serious declines due to market disruptions from the pandemic, as well as support forward-looking forestry projects that address new market demands, provide new sustainable products, or otherwise advance the long-term stability of the forestry industry. Funds may also support infrastructure upgrades that strengthen the supply chain and help businesses pivot to new products and markets.

“Wells Wood Turning & Finishing is extremely pleased to be one of the recipients of a Forest Recovery Initiative Grant,” said Chris Chandler, President of Wells Wood Turning & Finishing.  “These funds will allow the company to improve both our processes and productivity in a challenging market.  These innovations will enable the company to maintain its position as one of the United States’ premier manufacturers of rolling pins. The efficiencies we gain from the improvements we plan with these funds will benefit our hard working team members by reducing repetitive tasks and increasing output. We are grateful to all those at the Advanced Manufacturing Center, Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and MTI for their help keeping this Maine company competitive in a difficult Covid economy.” 

This next round of grants will have $4 million in funds available. The remaining $10 million of the total $20 million for the Forest Recovery Initiative will be awarded in future phases starting later this year.

The design of the Forestry Recovery Initiative was the result of community and stakeholder engagement, including meetings with industry members to explore the impact of the pandemic and to discuss the types of support needed.

This Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan program builds on the Mills Administration’s commitment to Maine’s forest products industry. The Administration has previously awarded $9.4 million in Maine Economic Recovery Grants to support businesses in the forest economy.

It draws heavily on recommendations from the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee and the State’s 10-Year Economic Development Strategy, transforming them into real action to improve the lives of Maine people 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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s