Growing up in Western Maine — where our livelihoods depended on the papermills in Rumford and Jay and the forest products industry, where many of my classmates went to work in the woods immediately after high school — I’m keenly aware of the vital role that our forest product industry plays in our state’s economy.
Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.
Our forest products industry is one of the cornerstones of our state’s economy and it’s 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 did.
Like so much of our economy, the loggers, the haulers, the saw mill operators, the biomass owners, the lumber mills and manufacturers in our forest products sector need support to recover from the economic downturn from the pandemic. I want to make sure that the forest products industry and the jobs it provides remains strong for generations to come.
That’s why, to support Maine’s forest products industry and the people it employs, my Administration, through my Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, have created the Forest Recovery Initiative and we’ve put $20 million from the American Rescue Plan behind this initiative.
This week, I announced that we are awarding the first $6 million of these funds in grants to more than 200 Maine forestry-related companies.
Of the 224 companies which we awarded grants to, 83 percent have ten employees or fewer, and 80 percent of them are located in Aroostook, Penobscot, Somerset, Oxford, or Piscataquis counties.
These grants of an average of $27,000 each, will provide direct funding to the forest products businesses to cover payroll and other expenses like rent or a mortgage, equipment, inventory, or utilities, like electric bills.
For example, one of the companies that received a grant from my Administration is the Maine Woods Company in Portage, Maine – their manager says that these funds will help them install cutting edge technology to control costs while delivering an even better Maine-made product to the world.
Another example is Wells Wood Turning & Finishing in Buckfield — their president said that these funds will allow them to increase output by reducing repetitive tasks, which supports their hardworking employees.
I am very pleased that these grants are delivering much-needed support to businesses in the forestry sector at a critical time, especially with inflation and the high cost of products and electricity right now, but I know that we have to do more.
I am working with the Maine Technology Institute to start another round of grants later this spring. This next round of grants will support forward-looking forest projects that meet changing market demands, making our forestry products industry stronger and more sustainable.
The forest products industry is a critical part of our state’s economy and our cultural identity. My Administration is committed to sustaining this vital sector and the rural Maine communities who rely on the vital businesses and jobs it creates.
To learn more about my Forest Recovery Initiative and other support for Maine’s small businesses under my Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, please visit maine.gov/jobsplan.
This is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.