Gov. Mills launches $20 million Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan to support Maine’s forest economy and rural communities

Governor Mills announces $20 million in federal funding to help lumber industry

MILFORD, Maine (WABI) – Governor Mills announced $20 million in federal funding as part of her Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan for the Forest Products Industry. Earlier this week she offered a combined $30 million toward Maine’s farming and fishing industries. The money will be offered in multiple phases.

November 12, 2021, Milford, Maine – Governor Janet Mills announced today that her Administration is launching the Forestry Recovery Initiative to support Maine’s forest products industry and the people it employs, create and sustain jobs in rural Maine, and strengthen the state’s economy.

“The Council applauds Governor Mills’ Jobs and Recovery Plan Initiative focused on Maine’s forest resource economy,” said Patrick Strauch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council. “It’s critical to make all sectors of our industry whole after COVID so we can continue our efforts to build a more diversified and resilient economy as global demand for more climate friendly wood-based products grows. Governor Mills knows how important our forest industry is to rural Maine communities and our workers, and we thank her for her efforts with this initiative.”

The initiative will be administered by the Maine Technology Institute (MTI) and utilizes $20 million in federal funds through the Governor’s Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan for grants to Maine loggers, foresters, lumber yards, and other members of Maine’s forest products sector. These grants will be used to help these businesses recover financial loss caused by the pandemic, develop new wood products, and upgrade infrastructure to strengthen supply chain and sell products to new markets.

The initiative comes as Maine’s $8.5 billion forest economy grapples with the impacts of the pandemic, including an estimated 30-40 percent decline in available markets for harvested wood and a shift in the use of paper resulting in a 19 percent decrease in revenue for paper mills.

“For generations, hardworking men and women across Maine have carved their livelihoods from our forests. While the products we make out of Maine wood have changed over time, the importance of the industry has not,” said Governor Janet Mills. “Our forest products industry employs tens of thousands of people in good-paying jobs and generates billions of dollars for our economy every year. It’s the lifeblood of our rural communities, and it’s why I want to make sure that we preserve these jobs for generations to come. Sustaining these businesses and supporting new and innovative products will open new markets, diversify this important industry, create jobs, and strengthen rural economy.”

“The forest industry is not only key to Maine’s economy but also supports our rural communities while our working forestlands play an important role in meeting our climate goals,” said Commissioners Amanda Beal and Heather Johnson. “As part of the Maine Jobs and Recovery program, this investment will directly support existing businesses that have been impacted by COVID and help stimulate innovative product and new market development for Maine’s timber assets.”

“These grants will enable the state to provide support to as many timber-related forestry businesses as possible and provide much needed capital to stabilize and aid in the recovery of Maine’s $8.5 billion forest economy,” said Brian Whitney, President of the Maine Technology Institute. “The funding will help us move forward and adapt to address new market demands for the long-term sustainability of this legacy industry.”

Gov. Mills announces the Forestry Recovery Initiative at Randall Madden Trucking in Milford.

Today’s announcement was made at Randall Madden Trucking, a family-based timber harvesting and hauling company in Milford.

“The pandemic has brought a new level of challenges to Maine’s timber harvesters and timber haulers at a time when they are already dealing with many other hardships,” said Dana Doran, Executive Director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine. “Maine’s forest economy is built on the foundation of wood fiber harvested by hardworking small family logging businesses across our state, and this announcement of support is a welcome one both for the financial impact it will have and the signal it sends about the continuing importance of timber harvesting and hauling within the forest products industry in Maine. Contractors desperately need to invest in their equipment to remain competitive and we are hopeful that this will provide needed low cost capital to help contractors make these investments. We thank Governor Mills for recognizing the value of timber harvesting, timber hauling and the greater forest products industry as a priority for funding.”

“FOR/Maine has worked closely with the Mills Administration to build upon our knowledge of sustainable wood supply, market development and attraction pursuits best suited for Maine’s forest resource, as well as forest economy workforce needs and opportunities for rural Maine citizens and communities,” said Steve Schley, chair of FOR/Maine Executive Committee. “This funding available through the Maine Jobs and & Recovery Plan Initiative, along with our work with DECD and MTI, creates terrific symbiosis to advance the detailed recovery plans we have been developing over the last three years.”

The Forestry Recovery Initiative will make grant awards available in multiple phases. Phases 1 and 2 will deploy $10 million of the total $20 million, with Phase 1 grants providing immediate 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. Eligible uses of grant funds may include but are not limited to:

  • Payroll costs and expenses;
  • Rent or mortgage payments for business facilities (unless otherwise waived by the lessor or lender);
    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;
  • Necessary operating expenses.
  • MTI will begin accepting applications for Phase 1 on November 22, 2021. The deadline to apply is January 31, 2022.

Phase 2 will be a competitive grant program to improve market opportunities for Maine timber, which has suffered serious declines due to market disruptions from the pandemic. Funding will support forward-looking projects that address new market demands, provide new sustainable products, or otherwise advance the long-term stability of the industry, helping to create and sustain jobs in rural Maine and strengthen Maine’s economy. Phase 2 funds may also be used for infrastructure upgrades that strengthen the supply chain and help businesses pivot to new products and markets.

Phase 2 is expected to launch in early 2022 and the remaining $10 million of the total $20 million will be deployed in subsequent phases in late 2022 or early 2023.

The design of the Forestry Recovery Initiative is 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 new Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan program builds on the Mills Administration’s commitment to Maine’s forest products industry. The Administration awarded $9.4 million in Maine Economic Recovery Grants to support businesses in the forest economy.

This event is the third and final in Governor Mills’ Maine Heritage Industry Week, which featured a series of announcements through the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan focused on supporting Maine’s iconic farming, fishery and forestry industries, including $20 million for Maine farmers and food processors and $10 million for Maine seafood dealers and processors.

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 achieve three goals: immediate economic recovery from the pandemic; long-term economic growth for Maine; and infrastructure revitalization.

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.

In addition to the investments above, since the legislation implementing the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan took effect on October 18, 2021, Governor Mills has announced:

  • $139 million to support small businesses, including $20 million for a new small business grant program, $39 million to help lower monthly health insurance premiums, and $80 million to replenish the Maine Unemployment Trust fund and mitigate tax hikes for small businesses.
  • More than $14 million to encourage people to pursue health care jobs in Maine and strengthen the state’s health care workforce, including new programs that make it more affordable for people to become health care professionals and to make it easier to advance in their careers once they do.
  • More than $30 million to help Maine people weatherize their homes, reduce their reliance on harmful fossil fuels, and cut their energy costs, and establish a Clean Energy Partnership that will provide career training opportunities, like apprenticeships, that will equip Maine people with the skills to fill good-paying jobs in Maine’s growing clean energy sector.

With more than $300 million in planned workforce investments through education and skills training programs, workforce housing, childcare, worker attraction, and business supports, the Jobs Plan aims to make a measurable impact on Maine’s workforce trends and build an economy poised for future growth.

Funding for the Jobs Plan is through the federal American Rescue Plan Act, which allocated $4.5 billion in stimulus funds to Maine earlier this year.

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, through a new Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan Office. This office will oversee the transparent and accountable implementation of the Jobs Plan, including ensuring that proposed expenditures are permissible under U.S. Treasury eligibility guidance, the final version of which remains pending.