By Patrick Strauch, MFPC Executive Director
I’ve just finished our MFPC series of candidate breakfasts throughout the state, from Sanford to Fort Kent , providing a great opportunity to meet with members and legislative candidates.
The greatest benefit of the breakfasts is to begin forging the relationship between legislators and their constituents. Because the true strength of the Council is in the relationships our members have with their locally elected officials. I predict an active 127th Legislature and those relationships you build with your local officials will be an important part of our success.
At all the sessions we had good attendance ranging from 25-45 people. A strong mix of candidates representing both sides of the political spectrum (45 percent Democrat, 55 percent Republican). It’s also important to instill in these potential legislators that we are an issues driven organization dedicated to the success of our members and their forest businesses It’s also important to instill in these potential legislators that we are an issues-driven organization dedicated to the success of our members and their forest businesses. We traditionally leave time for the candidates to provide us with their stump speeches
The presentation I prepared was designed to educate the candidates on the state of our industry and the potential for its future. presentation at Fort Kent. Despite the paper mill closures that dominated the news this fall, I thought it was important for candidates to understand how big our industry is, and how many markets exist for wood products.
In Sanford we talked about the revival of the Pleasant River mill and the challenges faced by wood manufacturers, in Old Town we focused on the Bucksport closure and the dynamics of the paper industry, in Fort Kent the opening of the Irving sawmill, ReEnergy power plant, Ecoshel shingle manufacturer and the recent acquisition of the Masardis sawmill by Maibec lead to a discussion about finding qualified help to fill these positions. In Gray, there was much discussion of workforce education and training and in Farmington the discussion included one of my favorite topics – the importance of the Tree Growth Tax program.
There was plenty of interaction at all the meetings and I thank the members who attended for their assistance and support. Many thanks also go to the sponsors who hosted this series:
- Gray: Sponsored by Plum Creek
- Old Town: Sponsored by Katahdin Forest Management
- Farmington: Co-sponsored by Wagner Forest Management & Timber Resource Group/Stratton Lumber
- Sanford: Co-sponsored by Pleasant River & Farm Credit East
- Fort Kent: Co -Sponsored by Key Bank of ME & J.D. Irving
Post Election: As we approach Election Day our legislative strategy will need to quickly evolve. I’ve been visiting with candidates throughout the summer and the Council has had great exposure to the gubernatorial candidates through several interviews and ongoing discussions. Whatever the makeup of the Legislature we will need to quickly determine our areas of focus. Based on membership feedback, I know we will be focused on the cost of energy and the need to create a well-trained workforce of loggers and millwrights. If you have any issues relating to regulations that are impeding your businesses, please let me know, there may be some legislative remedies that we can propose. Additionally, we need to be prepared to recommend qualified people to any political appointed positions that may open up, including two on the Public Utilities Commission.