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.