By Roberta Scruggs, MFPC Communications Director
An icy rain was falling as I carefully made my way up the slippery hill to the State House a few minutes after 7:30 a.m. I couldn’t help wondering if MFPC would have a decent turnout for our celebration of Maine’s forest products industry at the Hall of Flags on March 20.
An icy rain was falling as I carefully made my way up the slippery hill to the State House a few minutes after 7:30 a.m. I couldn’t help wondering if MFPC would have a decent turnout for our celebration of Maine’s forest products industry at the Hall of Flags. When I got to the security checkpoint, I warned the guard, “A bunch of forest products folks will be coming through here any minute with a lot of stuff.” He just grinned and pointed his thumb back over his shoulder. “They’re already here,” he said.
The State House had only been open a few minutes and the Nortrax team already was setting up the logging simulator in the Hall of Flags. Kevin Doran of the Maine Forest Service and Ryan Wishart, a Seven Islands forester, and Matthew Hiebert of Maine Energy Systems were wondering which tables were theirs, and others were bringing in their equipment. Everyone was wet, but cheerful and in no time at all the Hall of Flags was humming. We had a great turnout — plenty of eye-catching displays and a steady stream of people looking at them and learning about our industry.
“This was our first event at the Hall of Flags and it shouldn’t be our last,” said Sue McCarthy, MFPC officer manager. “You could tell it was a success by how loud it got. Everyone was talking to each other.”
Many started by getting coffee and a muffin and then worked their way around all the tables. Members had some excellent displays and so did our partners, from MFS to the Maine Maple Producers Association, with its delicious treat – maple sugar candy.
“It was good to see the diversity of booths set up,” said Eric Dumond of Re-Energy. “Many legislators made the rounds asking questions.”
Re-Energy worked with Nortrax to get the logging simulator (similar to the smaller simulator shown in our video at Foster Tech in Farmington last year). Lots of folks, including legislators, gave the simulator a try and lots more enjoyed watching them.
“The simulator was the hit,” Dumond said.
The flume table, which shows the effects of water flow on a landscape, also drew attention.
“People can’t help themselves,” joked Pat Sirois, SFI coordinator. “When the bear or moose get knocked over, they just have to reach in and set them back up again.”
Another big draw was the Maine Wood Concepts table with its colorful display of products ranging from unique salt shakers to upscale rolling pins.
“This was a very worthwhile event in our opinion,” said Doug Fletcher, president of Maine Wood Concepts, “and we appreciated the opportunity to take part in it. The resounding question we heard time and again from many of the people who stopped by to visit was, ‘Are all of these different products made in Maine?’ We were thrilled at their reactions when we affirmed that every single wooden item on our table is made right here in the great State of Maine! We’re already making plans to join our friends from the MFPC at the next Hall of Flags event!
Robbins Lumber showed off a number of products, including its ever-popular clothes drying rack.
“This event was a good chance to show the legislators what we do,” Jim Robbins Sr. said. “Many stopped to chat and gave us an opportunity to discuss some of our issues with them.”
“Not much talk about forest management or politics but the legislators who did stop by our table seemed to be genuinely interested in the product we were selling, AdvanTech,” said Barry Burgason, Huber wildlife biologist. “Many questions about where it was made, how it was made, etc. That’s not something Ted (Shina) and I usually peddle but having something in hand becomes a great conversation starter.”
It was great for those of in the industry to catch up with friends, but best of all our members, staff and others in the forest industry interacted with legislators, officials and many others throughout the busy day.
“It’s always helpful when legislators realize we represent real people and businesses,” said Executive Director Patrick Strauch. “That’s the value for MFPC in the events we do, including tours, receptions even our golf tournament. Our role is not just to advocate, but to educate. And exposing policymakers to the issues and, most importantly, to the people we represent is essential.”
The simulator was a lot of fun, but it was even harder than breaking gridlock in the Legislature!