Strong and steady as the towering pines that were once crafted into masts for the British Navy, forestry continues to play a crucial role in Maine’s economy. Visions of evergreen boughs swaying in the wind and impressive lengths of wood shipping downriver have fused to the core of the state’s identity, making it at once a center of industry and home to some of the United States’ most magnificent natural settings. That reputation is set to grow even stronger with a new focus on innovation and collaboration.
A multi-agency team called the Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT) brought together local, state and federal partners to build a new strategy for the future of Maine’s forest-based economy, bolstering existing industries and helping the state’s rural communities thrive. Released in mid-January, the team’s report identified new markets and ways to diversify to create new jobs, improve infrastructure and support promising new business opportunities.
Wood-engineered products like cross-laminated tiber are mentioned as one of those opportunities, as use of the materials catch on for new large-scale wooden architecture projects around the world. EDAT notes that Maine is uniquely positioned to become a leader in this emerging industry.
$1.5 million in funding for forest industries announced with the EDAT report join a $4.4 million investment for statewide economic initiatives in Maine from the Economic Development Agency, including funding for Biobased Maine to market the state’s forest resources, and a $3.3 million grant from the Department of Defense for the UMaine Forest Bioproducts Research Institute for Wood to Jet Fuel.
It’s an exciting time of growth for Maine’s forest industry, especially on the heels of NeLMA’s merger with the Northern Softwood Lumber Bureau, which will extend NeLMA programs across the Great Lakes area and welcome new wood species like Red Pine.
Image via The University of Maine