MEXICO – The Professional Logging Contractors (PLC) of Maine issued a statement of support today for U.S. Senator Angus King’s announcement of a draft proposal for new legislation that would invest in the future of Maine’s rural workforce by creating a pair of competitive grant programs designed to expand the work force, modernize training tools, and promote job creation.
The new grant programs would distribute federal funding to economically distressed communities via locally or regionally-led entities to help them develop and implement workforce training and economic growth strategies.
Senator King joined with Maine logging and forest industry representatives and career and technical educators from across the state this morning at the Career & Technical Education (CTE) Center Region 9, School of Applied Technology in Mexico to announce the proposed bill, the Invest in Rural America Act – which he will solicit feedback on and then introduce in the coming weeks.
Students who are enrolled in the Region 9 school’s Forestry/Wood Harvesting program could be beneficiaries of the federal funding if it is approved, as some grants could support replacement of the aging logging equipment they now use. Students from the other three vocational logging programs across the state were also in attendance to show their support for this effort.
The CTE logging programs have not invested in new equipment for their programs since 1999; the last time the state provided bond funds for equipment upgrades at the CTE’s.
Despite some drop in the overall number of logging and trucking jobs in Maine due to a series of market contractions in recent years, Maine is rapidly approaching a retirement “cliff” for operators of sophisticated mechanized logging equipment, with many of these workers nearing or past retirement age.
Training new operators to replace these workers is critical to the survival of the logging industry and that is why the PLC strongly supports high school programs like the one in Region 9 and the other CTE logging programs in Maine, and led efforts to create the new mechanized logging operator training program being launched this summer by Maine’s community college system.
“The Professional Logging Contractors of Maine strongly supports this initiative by Senator King and all such efforts to invest in the future of Maine’s forest economy,” PLC Executive Director Dana Doran, said. “Senator King understands how critical logging is to Maine’s rural economy, and that support for our industry in these challenging times will help it rebound stronger than ever when emerging markets for wood fiber inevitably lead to Maine’s abundant forest resource being in high demand in the future.”
The PLC also supports King’s broader economic agenda of increasing broadband connectivity, improving access to affordable health care, promoting renewable energy including use of biomass from Maine forests, and supporting rural farms. The PLC is committed to such efforts aimed at revitalizing Maine’s rural communities and ensuring they are places where people want to live, work, and visit.