About 70 legislators, including Speaker of the House Mark Eaves, toured the UPM Mill in Madison Jan. 10 as part of their three-day Legislative Economic Bus Tour organized by the Maine Development Foundation.
“The tour of the Madison paper mill provided us [legislators] the opportunity to hear and see first hand the skills and challenges of Maine paper makers,” said Rep. Terry Hayes, D-Buckfield. “It is helpful to understand how decisions we make in Augusta impact this industry.”
Executive Director Patrick Strauch rode with legislators from Bangor to Madison.
“I got a chance to address half of them on the bus trip and John Williams of Maine Pulp and Paper road on the second bus and addressed the other half,” Strauch said. “They had toured the wood composite lab and some of the wood chemistry department as well. So they could see a real futuristic opportunity for the forest products industry and that was good. Then I talked to them about the big picture — the land base, the sustainability of it, and the importance of having manufacturing and markets. So I think the got a good overview from that discussion.”
“The Madison Mill tour gave legislators who hadn’t been in a mill before a good opportunity to understand the process,” Strauch said. “I think what they saw was good jobs and high tech jobs. They asked a lot of questions about jobs in the industry being lost. Under the new management there’s a recognition that they need to increase positions, so they’re actively working on that. But the tour was great exposure. I hope we’ve made an impression so they will come to us if they have questions about the forest economy.”
“Sen. Gratwick, a new member of the ACF Committee, asked me a lot of questions about landownership and it was good to have a chance to chat with him about that,” he said. “Members of the utility committee talked with me so they could have a reference for the role forestry plays in energy production. Speaker Eaves continues to be interested in our industry and asked how he can learn more. So all those contacts are good.”