PASSADUMKEAG – The Professional Logging Contractors (PLC) of Maine today issued a statement in support of recommendations for Maine’s forest economy that were announced this morning by a federal Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT).
The recommendations were outlined by Matt Erskine, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, at an event held at the AFM Passadumkeag Wood Yard. The recommendations are focused on reviving Maine’s struggling forest economy and the event also included announcements of federal grants to address critical needs including $1 million to develop a long-term vision and strategic plan.
“Loggers and truckers are the root of the forest products value chain in Maine and right now that root is compromised. This has the potential to threaten the entire forest products value chain and the many rural communities that depend on it,” Dana Doran, executive director of the PLC, said. “Our strongly held tradition of a market for every tree has been compromised and we need to create a plan for how to stem the losses, protect what we have, and create opportunities for growth – now for the first time this process is beginning to yield that, and we hope we are writing the first chapter in the comeback story for rural Maine.”
In August 2016, the EDAT and members of the Maine Forest Economy Growth Initiative – a coalition of regional forest products industry representatives and community and economic development leaders including the PLC – participated in a series of economic development sessions, tours, and briefings to understand the challenges and opportunities for the forest products industry in Maine.
The EDAT visit was spurred by recent mill closures and related declines in forest manufacturing and harvesting that have drastically reduced softwood pulp markets and resulted in job losses in many sectors, including logging and trucking.
The recommendations that emerged in the wake of the work by the EDAT and the coalition include developing an industry-wide strategic plan to assess future demand for wood products and Maine’s wood supply both now and in the future; determining where infrastructure investments are needed to improve transportation efficiencies; supporting the development of markets for forest product residuals; identifying training needs and preparing the workforce to meet changing requirements; supporting redevelopment of vacant mill sites; supporting vibrant Maine communities where people want to live, work, and visit; and investing in long-term community infrastructure for the future.
In addition to the $1 million awarded to develop a long-term vision and plan, federal grants are also being awarded to the Eastern Maine Development Corporation ($200,000 for redevelopment of the Bucksport mill site) and the Maine International Trade Center ($145,000 to assist small businesses that export products.)
The PLC will work with the members of the Growth Initiative to implement its recommendations over the coming months and create a plan for sustaining and growing its opportunities for the value chain.
Maine’s loggers are a vital part of the state’s forest products sector, which is worth an estimated $8.5 billion annually. Maine’s logging industry contributes $882 million to the state’s economy each year and supports more than 7,300 direct and indirect jobs in the state.