ORONO, Maine — U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine today announced the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) will invest more than $4 million tohelp diversify and grow the Maine economy, which includes new funds designed to aid the forest sector. During an event at the University of Maine, Deputy Assistant Secretary Erskine also shared that from August 17-19, 2016, EDA will deploy an Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT) in eastern Maine to evaluate new and existing economic strategies to address the state’s forest-based economic challenges.
“EDA and its federal partners are committed to working closely with Maine stakeholders today and in the years to come to help struggling communities statewide work toward building a robust and enduring economy,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Erskine. “More immediately, to assist rural communities impacted by mill closures that have taken place here during the last several years, next month’s EDAT process will examine how local, state, and federal partners can work together to foster future innovation and commercialization in the forest economy.”
During the three-day EDAT visit, regional leaders and economic development experts, alongside officials from federal partners — U.S. Departments of Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Transportation, and Energy; and the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration, and the Northern Border Regional Commission — will participate in a series of economic development sessions, tours, and briefings.
At the conclusion of the EDAT process, regional and local stakeholders will have a bottom-up strategy, developed with input from the federal partners, designed to foster robust economic growth and recovery.
Since 2010, EDA has awarded $30.3 million in economic development grants to the state of Maine. Unrelated to the EDAT process — with the exception of one grant — the investments announced today were already in the federal pipeline of grants being pursued by eligible grantees in the state of Maine. Totaling $4.4 million, the grants are:
Maine Development Foundation
This investment will support, coordinate and track long-term economic recovery efforts that result from findings and recommendations made by the August 2016 Maine Forest Economy Economic Development Assessment Team. The Maine Development Foundation and the Maine Economic Growth Council publishes the annual Measures of Growth which benchmarks and tracks Maine’s economic performance in 25 key areas, and is very well suited for coordinating, tracking and reporting on the numerous and disparate activities that will be involved in the forest economy recovery effort at all levels.
EDA will invest $519,930 as part of a $856,549 project to Bio-Based Maine, in partnership with the University of Maine, to develop a road map to advance biobased manufacturing, marketing Maine’s biobased assets to investors in new technologies and processes, and providing technical assistance to Maine forest products manufacturers and users in the implementation of new biobased technologies. It is anticipated that the cost analysis, technology assessment and market research component of the project could place one or more mills into the production of cellulosic sugars, with 195 or more jobs created.
City of Bangor, Maine
Business Beneficiary: C&L Aerospace
This investment will support the further expansion of C&L Aerospace which is engaged totally refurbishing commercial turboprop and jet aircraft, and supplying parts and repair services to certain models of aircraft worldwide. As a result of this investment, C&L Aerospace expects to create at least 50 new jobs.
Bangor Target Area Development Corp.
Business Beneficiaries: Twin Rivers Paper and Cerahelix Corp.
This investment will make interior upgrades within the Target Technology Center to create wet laboratory and supporting space to the Twin Rivers Paper Company and the Cerahelix Corp. Twin Rivers operates one of Maine’s six remaining paper mills (located in Madawaska), which is successfully competing in the paper packaging market, and is relocating its research and development operation from Montreal, Canada to Orono, Maine to be closer to the mill and have better access to the University of Maine’s Forest Bioproducts Research Institute. While Twin Rivers will only be on-shoring a few research jobs, the implications and potential impacts of this move are significant, including the retention of 500 paper mill jobs in Madawaska.
Central Maine Community College
This investment will expand CMCC’s Precision Machining Technology laboratory by 8,600 square feet to accommodate increasing demand for skills training by enrolled students and businesses. CMCC’s Precision Machining Technology Center is the largest such facility in the Northeast, and currently operates on a 24/7 basis to accommodate the increasing demands of enrolled students and businesses which use the facility for employee training, product development, and access to specialized equipment not available within their workplaces.
The expanded facility will allow a 20 percent increase in student enrollment, which is critical to meeting the industry’s estimate of 900 high-skill, high-wage precision machining vacancies that will occur during the next five years.
In addition to EDA’s grants and the interagency EDAT team to be deployed to Maine in August, Deputy Assistant Secretary Erskine also announced today several new efforts by other federal partners that will provide support to the Maine economy, including:
U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Logistics Agency
The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) will invest $3.3 million to advance wood to jet fuel technology at the Technology Research Center (TRC) of the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute at the University of Maine. The technology is based on FBRI’s patented thermal deoxygenation (TDO) process, which was shown to yield jet fuel test samples that have met key specification.
In order to improve process economics, FBRI will investigate co-production of advanced materials, such as nanocelluose composites, as well as some high-value chemicals from woody biomass and liquid hydrocarbon fuels. This project will explore conversion of cellulose and lignin to liquid hydrocarbon fuels, and use of hemicellose extract and cellulose fiber slip streams for developing high-value co-products.
UMaine’s research approach, based on potential sustainable supply of woody biomass, will provide new opportunities for high-value use as an alternative to direct combustion in biomass power plants, where energy efficiency is often very low. In addition, FBRI plans to finish reassembly of recently relocated biomass hydrolysis pilot plant, for converting biomass into levulinic and formic acids, to keep this unique critical research infrastructure operating in Maine and train students.
U.S. Department of Energy
The Department of Energy will provide technical assistance and new market product advice through the programs of its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and its newly created Jobs Strategy Council. Among the specific services offered are:
- Workshops on EERE’s financial assistance programs, including Small Business Voucher Program which provides $20 million of technical support in grants of $50,000 to $300,000 to qualifying small businesses seeking the world class expertise of the National Laboratory system to bring the next generation of clean technologies to market and on the Federal Government’s Small Business Innovation Research program.
- DOE will encourage participation by the University of Maine in the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), a public-private partnership creating clean energy solutions and catalyzing manufacturing competitiveness across the U.S. advanced composite ecosystem. This partnership of industry, universities, national laboratories and federal, state and local governments is sharing resources and co-investing in innovative research to accelerate development and commercial deployment of advanced fiber reinforced polymer composites.
- EERE supported Industrial Assessment Centers will work with the paper industry in Maine and other small and medium sized manufacturers to provide energy audits identifying energy saving cost reductions. Typically IAC assessments have provided participating manufacturers with specific energy savings recommendations with the potential for up to 8 percent energy reduction strategies and affordable payback ratios.
- EERE supported Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Technical Assistance Program will provide operating paper mills in Maine with feasibility assessments of existing operations to install CHP technology as a strategy to lower costs through generating onsite power.
- In addition, DOE and ORNL will identify long term opportunities for new product development relying on Maine’s fiber-based resources.”
U.S. Small Business Administration
The Small Business Administration will provide small business and entrepreneurial training, and host a series of local events focused on increasing access to capital and opportunities to utilize government resources for new and existing small businesses. Last year in Maine, the SBA provided more than $110 million in guaranteed loans, $1.24 billion in small business government contracts, and training and counseling to more than 8776 clients.