Our long-awaited and much-discussed “roadmap” for Maine’s forest economy is under construction now and it has a new name: the Forest Economic Growth Initiative.
The overall goal of the project is to identify Maine’s forest product market capabilities and competitiveness, and quantify Maine’s future wood supply, so we can develop a Vision & Roadmap for Maine’s future forest products economy. The results will encourage private investment in industrial, commercial, and other economic development in this important regional industry.
As proposed, this project would cost $2.4 million over three years. Phase 1 funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) has been granted, and an MTI grant will provide the 20 percent matching funds. An application for Phase 2 funding will be submitted to EDA in fall 2017.
The project will be guided by a 10-12 person executive committee, comprised of the four forest industry organizations (Maine Forest Products Council, Small Woodland Owners of Maine, the Professional Logging Contractors and Biobased Maine), the Maine Forest Service, the University of Maine, and the subcommittee chairs. Each task will be managed by a 8-10 person subcommittee (see descriptions below) chaired by an industry representative. A 40-person advisory committee, including representatives of forest industry companies and other stakeholders, will provide critical feedback and input throughout the process.
Each task in the work plan below has a distinct and valuable deliverable that can be shared real time. Integration of all the deliverables into a strategic Roadmap is also critical for success in the long-term.
The project is divided into teams of experts in the fields of study. Each Team has a chair that oversees the management of the project task. Staff support will include meeting scheduling, facilitation, agendas and minutes; drafting of RFPs; and managing consultants.
GLOBAL MARKET AND BENCHMARKING TEAM:
Maine forest industries need to better understand emerging and potential markets for forest products, and match that with Maine’s forest resource on both short term and long term time horizons. A better understanding of global markets will create opportunities for new and expanded forest products businesses, a more diversified forest economy, high value exports, and increased jobs and wages. Global forces in the forest industry are affecting northeast markets and to plan Maine’s future we need to identify market trends and manufacturing opportunities that complement our species mix and current mill capacities. Maine cannot compete with short rotation eucalyptus in South America, but what market opportunities exist in the world for products manufactured from our unique spruce-fir forests? This initiative will identify the top forest product opportunities for Maine to pursue that will form the framework of the strategic industry plan.
Capital is being invested in competing regions of the world and Maine needs to understand through benchmarking of resource and business factors what are the elements of building an effective forest economy and attracting capital to rural Maine. This task will identify Maine’s competitive strengths as well as the areas where improvement is necessary so that we can develop specific actions to leverage strengths and address weaknesses as part of the industry strategic plan.
This team, which held its first meeting March 29, is working to select an appropriate global consultants through a RFQ and RFP process. Once the consultant is hired the group will convene regular feedback sessions with the vendor to build a strong final product.
WOOD FIBER AVAILABILITY TEAM
This work will be an ongoing collaborative effort and responsibility of the Maine Forest Service and the University of Maine that will be periodically updated.
Phase One: This immediate effort will provide preliminary forest modeling information that allows planners to see what species are available for manufacturers and approximate regions where this growth and harvest occurs. This cursory work (year 1) can be coupled with the global market analysis to enable immediate initiatives.
Phase two: This longer range effort builds a more sophisticated ability to model the growth of the forest in specific regions of the state and predict long range supplies with a variety of wood demand scenarios. Past work enabled completion of the budworm action plan that is in implementation phase. Large capital investment in the forest industry require long term planning and understanding of forest growth dynamics.
FORESTRY SUBSECTOR ANALYSIS TEAM
This team will conduct a Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results (SOAR) analysis of forest sectors, communities, and capital investors in Maine. Our Maine companies need to be sustained and understanding their business needs and ideas about future opportunities is an important element in preparing a roadmap forward.
Understanding the needs and ideas about future opportunities of forest economy businesses is an important element. This task involves analyzing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing each sector of the forest products economy through a series of facilitated stakeholder meetings at various stages in the process. These results will be compiled into a summary reports that will inform the strategic industry plan.
This group will plan and organize the plenary sessions designed to seek input and respond to preliminary findings of the project. The Advisory group is a way to encourage broad industry, community and government buy-in to the process.
TRANSPORTATION SUBSECTOR ANALYSIS TEAM:
This team will conduct a transportation analysis to determine where infrastructure improvements are necessary to increase margins for the forest products value chain.
Major shifts have occurred with mill closures and wood flow delivery patterns throughout the state. Identifying efficiencies that can be gained through modern dispatching and increase coordination of backhauls (increase the tons of wood moved per day) could make trucking operations more competitive with other regions.
Consultant John Melrose has conducted a preliminary analysis of the of the Maine transportation infrastructure with recommendations for further study. ongoing meetings to discuss material transportation flows and potential central dispatching concepts are part of the discussions as this team prepares the plan for further investigations.
COMBINED HEAT AND POWER (CHP) SUBSECTOR TEAM
Support and grow markets for low-value underutilized wood and biomass, utilizing state-of-the-art CHP (Combined Heat and Power) biomass plants, microgrids, and modern thermal systems.
Markets for low value wood and mill residuals (logging operations and sawmills) are critical to the continued profitability of loggers, landowners and wood manufacturing facilities. USDA & DOE resources and experience are an important opportunity for Maine interests in developing a holistic biomass energy plan to promote CHP platforms, modern heat installations and micro-grid operations. These funds enable continued resource sharing and site visits (e.g. Oak Ridge National Laboratory) to federal agencies and policy leaders to examine options for this critical opportunity in Maine.
EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES SUBSECTOR TEAM
Explore emerging technologies and integrate Biobased Maine and University efforts into industry strategic plan. This team is composed of experts representing new technologies in wood utilization for nano-cellulose, biofuels, sugars and solid wood technologies like cross laminated timbers (CLT).
As the industry transitions into new technologies, this group analyzes potential opportunities and informs the overall team on research coordination and marketability of potential new markets. Regular inquiries are happening in Maine and this group can ensure these opportunities are incorporated into our short term and long term strategic planning.
INTEGRATION AND MARKETING PLAN DEVELOPMENT
The Executive Committee will be selecting a consultant to integrate the findings of the Roadmap effort into a summary document that outlines important recommendations to policy makers, industry members and government officials to build a strong long-term forest industry. Additionally this effort will culminate on a Marketing plan that will help shape Maine’s identified strengths into a marketing effort that will attract capital investment.
With the collected data and established policy directives Maine will demonstrate that it has established a roadmap and commitment to capital investors. Aggressively marketing Maine’s competitive strengths requires an organized effort and compilation of our labor forces, forest resources and business incentives to investors both in Maine and out. This task also includes creating a system to connect prospects to resources and requires collaboration with State, Trade Center and business development organizations.
By Ryan Rhodes, FRA Director of Public Relations and Government Affairs
Action Requested by Forest Resources Association (FRA): Contact your Congressman and Senator and urge them to support the Future Logging Careers Act Sponsored in the House by Rep. Poliquin (R-ME) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) as well as it’s Senate companion bill with sponsors Sen. Angus King I-(ME) and Sen. Risch(R-ID).
Background: The Future Logging Careers Act would ensure that the next generation of mechanical timber harvesters can gain on-the-ground safety training and experience under the close supervision of their parents. Timber harvesting operations are similar to family farms with sophisticated and expensive harvesting equipment that requires young men and women to learn how to run the business, including equipment operation and maintenance, prior to the age of eighteen.
The agriculture industry enjoys regulatory exemptions that permit family members between the ages of sixteen and seventeen to participate and learn the operations of the family business under the direct supervision of their parents. However, young men and women in families who own and operate timber harvesting companies are denied the opportunity to work and learn the family trade until the age of eighteen. This bill amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to allow for sixteen and seventeen year olds in mechanized logging operations to work in the business under parental supervision.
Take Action: Please enter your voting address on the web form attached, and then review and revise (if you wish) the template letter. Once you have reviewed the letter, click “Print/Send” to automatically e-mail it to your House member and Senators.
After a huge snowstorm Feb. 9 forced postponement of MFPC’s 2017 Legislative Reception, we rescheduled for March 9 and it was worth the wait. Attendance was great, the conversation was lively and the buffet was terrific. MFPC members had a wonderful opportunity to talk with legislators – and vice versa. Special thanks to Office Manager Sue McCarthy who planned the event, took the photos and made everyone feel welcome.
We already know that we’re going to have a pretty healthy legislative agenda, but between the learning curve for new members and the days missed due to bad weather, this session is off to a slow start.
So far, though, we’ve got three landowner liability bills between the Judiciary Committee and ACF, so we’ll continue to have conversations about landowner liability (LD 39, LD 112, LD 128). MFPC’s Landowner Committee had an in-depth discussion Tuesday about the bills and how to clarify and protect landowner liability.
We’re also working on our testimony in opposition to LD 541, which would alter the way the Commercial Forestry Excise Tax is calculated.
Although we’ve only had hearings on a few bills before the ACF Committee, they have voted with a majority report on LD 8 to train and arm rangers, but we’re still waiting to see the definition on the term “train.” That hasn’t come back before the committee, there’s nothing scheduled yet, and we’re waiting for the fiscal note.
We know there are Tree Growth-related bills coming, but they haven’t been available to us yet.
Sunday hunting continues to be a theme. There are multiple bills that will be coming up before the IFW Committee at a later date. They’re trying to hold all those bills until they can be grouped together for a public hearing. I think it will go as it usually does and none of the bills will get traction, but it’s a new Legislature, you can’t ever say for sure.
The other big conversation at the State House now is the debate on citizen-initiated referendum reform. The latest was LD 564, to increase the number of the signatures required. But there all kinds of proposals on the table, such as making a certain percentage of signatures come from each congressional district or each state Senate district. There seems to be some sentiment that to tighten the rules on on initiating a referendum. I think if they’re going to do it, they need to do it now because we already have some citizen-initiated referendums in the works. Two years from now we’ll have the gubernatorial and legislative elections, and that will be seen as the time to get people out to vote on these ballot initiatives. The governor is supportive of reform. We expect to see a working group on this issue, but it hasn’t been announced yet.
Just a note that MFPC members might find interesting, the Democratic caucus is trying to organize its base, so the leadership is holding a town hall forum, in conjunction withCan-Am Crown International sled dog race, in Fort Kent Friday (March 3) at 6:30 p.m. at the university. Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash, House Speaker Sara Gideon of Freeport, Assistant Senate Minority Leader Nathan Libby of Lewiston and Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden of Lewiston are expected to attend.
Happy New Year, happy new legislative session. The 128th Maine Legislature has convened its first regular session, first-time legislators are learning their way around the State House and the process within, and we are all learning about them.
Joint committee assignments have been released and bills titles have been filed, which gives us some sense of the issues we will be working on. Many of the debates we’ve been involved with in years past will be back, including arming rangers, attacks on Tree Growth, Sunday hunting, mining regulations, the citizen-initiated referendum process, landowner liability, biomass and scores of bills to improve the energy market in Maine.
I have high hopes for a successful session. Legislative leaders have spoken to the need to “work together for the citizens of Maine,” “collaborate” and “put party politics aside.” In the first days of this session we have seen just that, with a bipartisan and unanimous response to address concerns with one of last fall’s ballot initiatives. That sentiment and approach is what we need as we engage in the various issue debates and the Legislature works to create a biennial budget required by June 30.
On February 2, the members of the Maine Forest Economy Growth Initiative (MFPC, PLC, SWOAM, MDF) will be making a presentation to the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee about our priorities to strengthen the economy and how the recently completed EDAT report addresses these priorities. This same group will be presenting on February 7 to the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee about our priorities and findings in the EDAT report that relate to the topic of biomass energy in Maine.
At MFPC, the Policy Committee holds a conference call each Friday at 8:30 a.m. to discuss and determine positions on bills as they are printed. I would encourage members to join in for an interesting and healthy conversation about the issues before us. Contact Sue McCarthy if you’d like to participate.
Thus far, we have discussed several bills of particular interest:
LD 39 and LD 112 are two bills before the Judiciary Committee that would amend the landowner liability statute, the first by including “lessee or sublessee or holder of an easement from the landowner” and the second by including “construction, maintenance or expansion of trails and facilities commonly associated with recreation or harvesting activities including parking lots, warming shelters, restrooms, outhouses, bridges and culverts.” Both attempt to expand the list of recreational and harvesting activities allowed and provide more protections to landowners, which we generally support. However we always need to be cautious of tinkering with the provisions of this statue and creating some unintended consequence.
LD 8 is a bill sponsored by Rep. Tuell of East Machias that will be heard before the ACF Committee and would allow “forest rangers to have a personal concealed firearm for personal protection while on duty.” MFPC will be opposing this bill at the public hearing on Tuesday, January 31st.
The Council will be again hosting a Legislative Reception on Thursday, February 9th from 4 – 7 p.m. I would encourage all to attend as we get to meet legislators from around the state who are making critical decisions about and for our industry. (RSVP for reception.)
Additionally, I ESPECIALLY encourage all of our members to reach out and create a dialogue to your elected officials in the House and Senate. As bills are debated, Patrick, MFPC staff and I are all engaged at the State House, but a constituent call or message is powerful and often can be the difference between a vote for us or against. (Find your town’s senator and representative.)
They are your elected officials and work for you, so please take the time to develop a relationship and tell them about the amazing and significant industry we have in this state.
We all know that necessity is the mother of invention, which is why the Council teamed up with the University of Maine to build a roadmap for our industry, an effort endorsed by the 127th Legislature last spring in a resolution.
January has been a month of announcements centered on efforts of many Maine companies and organizations to build this roadmap for Maine, so it’s a good time to let you know the progress of our efforts.
Maine’s woods cover a vast region and there is always some variability in operating conditions, but in general we’ve had snowfall over land that was not completely frozen so harvesting operations are not ideal and require greater efforts to freeze down woods roads and harvesting trails.
The result is that mill wood inventories are decreasing and there is a slight increase in market demand. This ebb and flow is part of the market dynamics in our industry that is influenced by global markets and natural resource dynamics. We’re no different from our fellow fisherman and farmers, it’s just that our crop rotations are closer to 70 years than the 5 to 7 years for a lobster to grow to the legal harvest size.
As an industry we’re fortunate that we have spent a significant amount of time in the last 20 years talking about the sustainability of our resource and we’re seeing the farming an fisheries managers adapting our certification principles into their own disciplines. However, we have not spent as much time discussing the sustainability of our wood manufacturing, and we’ve been caught off guard with a loss of markets due to mill closures. Signs of this market shift were apparent, but the global dynamics of low energy prices, China’s economic crisis and the resultant strength of the U.S. dollar put many of our at-risk businesses over the edge.
Earlier this month the Forest Economy Initiative Group released the priorities we’ve identified to strengthen Maine’s forest economy, including conducting a global market assessment to assess future demand for Maine wood products, analyzing our statewide wood supply with an eye to new markets, and determining where infrastructure improvements are necessary to increase profitability for the forest products value chain.
The consortium we’ve been talking about in past newsletters includes MFPC, UMO, the Maine Development Foundation, SWOAM, Professional Loggers Contractors of Maine (PLC), BioBased Maine, and the former Maine Pulp & Paper Association. It’s an important collection of industry and community interests.
This report was never designed to be a silver bullet,” said Peter Triandafillou of Huber Resources, “but this initiative allows us to start connecting key resources.”
On January 18, the Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT) came to Maine to release its report, which reinforces the priority issues identified by our Maine process and to add a $1 million in funding for the UMO/Industry roadmap project. This award makes it possible to assemble our Forest Implementation Team (FIT) to work with the university and carry out our work plan. Watch press conference.
In February, we will be going in front of the Maine Technology Institute to seek the required matching money. The Roadmap Project will have both short-term and long-term deliverables, but it is not the only effort to strengthen our forest economy.
I speak from experience when I say there are numerous entrepreneurial activities occurring on a daily basis. Many companies are “kicking the tires” of Maine’s assets, including companies considering expansions, building material manufacturers seeking East Coast locations, and a global push towards the third industrial revolution that includes a wood biobased economy with modern manufacturing technology.
A great example is the agreement signed Friday between UMO and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to explore the opportunities for 3D printing using wood cellulose. There also are discussions about building a wood nanocellulose refinery in Maine.
The Roadmap Project is designed to assist all of these individual efforts by raising the collective tide of opportunity by:
- Determining the types of businesses we should be encouraging based on a global assessment of our niche in the world;
- Benchmarking ourselves in all forest sectors against our competing forest product regions, and,
- Inventorying tree species growth rates and location to prospective manufacturing opportunities to enable long-range investment.
If we do this right, we will assemble the best information from experts and leaders in our field, uncover some of the deeper root causes of the current situation, and find ways to encourage more capital investments in our state. We also hope to enhance communications and sharing of ideas among business and community leaders, policy makers and conservationists. If we reach these goals, the Roadmap Project will be part of an important and lasting initiative for Maine’s forest economy.
We’re entering the 128th Legislature with a significant amount of change having taken place in Maine’s forest industry. While our members are weathering the storm I wanted to provide some perspective on what’s happening in light of our challenges.
Mill workers feel the pain of closures immediately, but the logging community adapts and contracts as we enter the winter season. What is traditionally our busiest and most productive time of harvest, “the winter surge,” will be stifled by wood yards that are filled with logs, pulpwood and biomass.
Contractors accustomed to “making hay” during this winter season will under capacity and facing a growing amount of equipment payments. While our sawmills are generally performing better in a slowly strengthening housing market, I worry about the markets for their bark, sawdust and chips which are dependent on biomass energy plants and paper mills. Sawmills may be hindered in increasing their production to meet an increasing demand because they have limited options for their residual wood products and can’t just build huge piles on their mill sites. It’s not a great winter ahead, but our resilience is demonstrated time and time again in this business.
Gov. Paul R. LePage continues to champion our industry and Maine’s congressional delegation has been looking for ways to help as well.
In the same way, our incoming Legislature will be eager to help if we can provide them with good ideas for their action. The “Roadmap” strategic planning project we put forward last session with the University of Maine has been joined by additional industry partners and we’ll be following up with legislators on that project.
Members of the industry will be a big part of this effort and we’ll be asking you to participate in meetings to discuss the challenges facing our industry and how we should transition our forest economy.
In addition we are actively seeking input from MFPC committees on legislative initiatives that will help you in your businesses. Please send us your ideas and we will match you up with a bill sponsoring legislator.
I think it is important to realize that the forest industry is still an $8.5 billion economy (similar to 2011 total) and there remains plenty of potential for growth.
I’m also talking with many people about perspective projects in Maine that would begin to rebuild some of the wood markets we lost in the last few years. New entrepreneurs and existing Maine businesses alike are kicking the tires of the state of Maine and the Council will be working with others to rebuild markets for our sustainably managed forest.
I look forward to another productive year in the Legislature and please don’t hesitate to call the MFPC staff if we can do anything to help you or your businesses.
Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols has proposed adding a deputy position in the county’s unorganized territory (UT) that would add $100,000 to the UT budget in the first year, including the deputy’s salary, benefits and cruiser, with that cost decreasing to roughly $69,000 annually until the cruiser needs to be replaced. According to Nichols’ proposal, the position is needed to reduce response times and “create a more visible police presence.”
“An increased presence in these areas would reduce property crime, which sometimes goes unreported by the home owner because it occurred at a camp,” Nichols wrote in his proposal.
A public hearing on the proposal in the Franklin County Budget 2017-2018 is set for Monday, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m. at the Eustis Community Center, 86 Main Street. According to local press coverage County Commissioner Gary McGrane opposes the proposal, Clyde Barker supports it and Charlie Webster is undecided. (Sheriff proposes unorganized territory deputy; Franklin County sheriff proposes deputy to patrol unorganized territory.)
The MFPC Landowner Committee will be discussing the sheriff’s proposal at its meeting Dec. 8. “It seems like this would set a precedent, so we should be involved from the start,” said Peter Triandafillou, who chairs the committee.
There are less than 1,000 UT residents in Franklin County, (including about 200 added when Madrid deorganized in 2000, and they are spread out through about 20 township, according to Marcia McInnis, UT fiscal administrator.
The increased cost would be paid by UT taxpayers, but some are concerned that the proposed deputy would be taking calls in organized towns such as Eustis, Phillips and Avon. Nichols proposal, which only contained statistics for the past year, reported 282 calls for service, ranging from animal complaints to motor vehicle accidents.
The county has 1,700 square miles, including the towns of Avon, Carrabassett Valley, Carthage, Chesterville, Eustis, Farmington, Industry, Jay, Kingfield, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Phillips, Rangeley, Salem, Strong, Temple, Weld, and Wilton; plantations of Coplin, Rangeley, and Sandy River, according to the Franklin County website.
In 2010, Franklin County was Maine’s second smallest county by population at 2.3 percent of the state’s total, with a census count of 30,768, a 4.4 percent increase over 2000. The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 estimate showed a slight population decline to 29,991.
According to the county website, the UT includes:
- 9.3 million acres of land, including 7.5 million acres in the Tree Growth program and 1.2 million acres that are exempt from property tax, such as State and Federal land.
- There are 421 townships with a full-time resident population of 7,902 people. In addition, the 2010 census estimated that there are 11,068 seasonal structures that house approximately 26,895 non-residents
- There are approximately 378 miles of summer roads and 569 miles of winter roads in the UT.
After an overwhelming election season filled with commercials, mailers, door visits, debate forums and record spending by candidates and PACs, the political landscape in Maine today is essentially what it was prior to the election. The presidential election, along with five somewhat controversial statewide ballot questions and one bond package definitely energized turnout with Maine again leading in voter participation. (Maine turnout was 69.6 percent compared to 58.6 percent nationwide, according to the U.S. Elections Project.)
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree easily won reelection for her District 1 seat. District 2 saw record spending with the outcome secured once again by Congressman Bruce Poliquin.
All members of the Maine Legislature were up for re-election. During his last two years in the Blaine House, Gov. Paul LePage will again be working with a Senate led by Republicans and a House of Representatives controlled by the Democrats.
Leadership for both houses has been selected, but must be confirmed with a vote of a Joint Convention of the House and Senate members after they are sworn in December 7th. It is anticipated that the speaker of the House will be Sara Gideon working with Democratic Majority Leader Erin Herbig and Assistant Leader Jared Golden, while Republican Minority Leader Ken Fredette will return as will Assistant Leader Ellie Espling. The Senate president will again be Mike Thibodeau and Majority Leader Garrett Mason and Assistant Majority Leader Andre Cushing also are returning. Senate Democrats elected new leadership with Troy Jackson as Minority Leader and Assistant Leader Nathan Libby.
Constitutional officers — Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer and Auditor — also will be selected by a majority of the Legislature at the Joint Convention on December 7th.
It will be some time before we see bill titles and committee assignments for the upcoming session, but Gov. LePage has already indicated his agenda is to pursue legislation reducing taxes (including property taxes), lowering energy prices and improving the state’s education system. What remains to be seen is if he attempts to repeal or thwart any of the successful ballot questions that he strongly opposed, including marijuana legalization, increase of minimum wage and the income tax rate hike for incomes over $200,000.
It is safe to predict that the upcoming session in Augusta will have elements of controversy and political intrigue, which we will be talking about soon.