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King, Pingree Announce Two Maine Finalists for $100 Million 21st Century Development Grants

The University of Maine-Forest Opportunity Roadmap/Maine Coalition and Northeastern University’s Coalition including the Roux Institute each will receive $500,000 as they compete nationally for larger funding opportunities within the American Rescue Plan’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King and Representative Chellie Pingree today announced that the University of Maine-Forest Opportunity Roadmap/Maine (FOR/Maine) Coalition and Northeastern University’s Coalition – which includes the Maine-based Roux Institute and FocusMaine – are finalists and in the running for the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) $1 billion “Build Back Better Regional Challenge,” an American Rescue Plan program that could ultimately award the coalitions up to $100 millioneach. If selected for final funding, the UMaine-FOR/Maine Coalition would work to revitalize the forest product industry and support rural communities – adding $4 billion to Maine’s economy, while the Northeastern University would partner with Portland’s Roux Institute and FocusMaine to spur biomanufacturing jobs and economic growth in Maine. 

The selection of two-Maine projects in the competitive grant program comes after letters from Senator King and Representative Pingree, as well as Governor Janet Mills, to the EDA urging selection of both proposals, and after support from both King and Pingree for the American Rescue Plan, which passed the Senate in March by a vote of 50 to 49. Being selected as two of the 60 finalists out of 529 applicants, the UMaine-FOR/Maine Coalition and the Northeastern Coalition will both receive $500,000 to further develop their proposal and help create new partnerships. 

“In order to strengthen Maine’s competitiveness in the 21st century economy, we must work to both modernize longstanding industries and embrace innovative fresh thinking. These proposals from the University of Maine-Forest Opportunity Roadmap/Maine Coalition and Northeastern University will do just that, helping to support the economy of tomorrow, and strengthening Maine for generations to come,” said Senator King. “As the most-forested state in the nation, the long-term viability of Maine’s working forests are inseparably tied to the success of our state and rural communities – when Maine’s forest economy thrives, so do our communities. The University of Maine and Forest Opportunity Roadmap/Maine Coalition has done extraordinary work to create new, sustainable forest opportunities to boost our economy, conserve our forests, and bring back good-paying jobs of today to areas in need. The Roux Institute and FocusMaine have created a similar impact on an emerging industry, helping to bring new jobs, growth, and innovation in the biopharmaceutical sector to Maine. Congratulations to each of them for impressing the Economic Development Administration, and receiving vital American Rescue Plan funds to boost their efforts.”

“Even before the pandemic, Maine’s forest products industry faced tremendous challenges brought on by shifting demand, mill closures and disruptions, unfair trade practices, and the worsening climate crisis. I proudly voted for the historic American Rescue Plan, which will support the work the University of Maine and FOR/Maine is doing to sustainably reinvigorate and support green jobs in the forest products sector and rural communities hit hard by the pandemic,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior & Environment. “I’m thrilled the EDA has recognized this project’s potential to not only support the global competitiveness of Maine’s innovative forest products industry, but also to enhance this sector as a critical part of the climate solution. It brings me a great sense of pride to know that not one, but two projects with Maine ties were named finalists in this program that’s helping us build back better. All of New England will benefit from Northeastern University’s project. Their multi-state coalition to support biomanufacturing infrastructure will prime New England’s commitment to innovation and science, helping to ensure a brighter future for generations to come.”

“This is great news and a testament to the outstanding work of FOR/Maine and the Roux Institute,” said Governor Janet Mills. “Both of these proposals offer Maine the opportunity to build a stronger, more diverse, and more sustainable economy that builds on our prized forest products industry and our growing bioeconomy in new and innovative ways. I am so pleased to see their proposals advance and look forward to continuing to support their important work on behalf of Maine.”  

If selected for final funding, the University of Maine (UMaine) and the Forest Opportunity Roadmap/Maine (FOR/Maine) Coalition will work to revitalize Maine’s forest economy, and provide an opportunity for rural areas in the Northeast to build stronger, cleaner, and greener communities through strategic investment – building on Maine’s oldest resource and transforming the heritage industry. The project will help pivot away from petroleum-based feedstocks and chemicals to bio-based, renewable products and in so doing address our most critical regional crises – affordable housing, climate change, income inequality, rural decay, and lost manufacturing jobs. Coalition members include leaders from industry, education, workforce and community development, and state government as well as community-based organizations serving historically excluded populations. You can find the UMaine-FOR/Maine Coalition’s proposal for an EDA grant here

The UMaine-FOR/Maine Coalition project is estimated to add nearly $4 billion in total economic impact to the Maine economy, and build workforce pathways to fill an estimated 5,000 direct job openings over the next 15 years. In 2019, $8.1 billion in economic impact and 31,822 jobs were tied to Maine’s forest products sector – approximately 1 out of every 25 dollars of Maine’s GDP and 1 out of 25 Maine jobs respectively.

The Northeastern University Coalition, which includes Portland’s Roux Institute and FocusMaine, would work to connect hubs throughout New England to support a stronger biomanufacturing economy. The coalition would support existing and new biomanufacturing infrastructure as a pathway to the good jobs of tomorrow for underserved and distressed regions throughout the Northeast. To ensure a new generation of workers can benefit from the region’s biomanufacturing cluster, the coalition proposes a number of interventions to provide an on-ramp into the biotechnology sector for individuals without a four-year college degree to secure a stable, high-quality biomanufacturing job. You can find the Northeastern University Coalition proposal for an EDA grant here

The organizations will now compete in Phase 2 of the Challenge, which will award 20-30 regional coalitions up to $100 million to implement 3-8 projects that support an industry sector. The deadline for Phase 2 is March 15, 2022.

Senator King and Representative Pingree have been strong supporters of creating Maine jobs for the 21st century – working to revitalize the forest products industry, and creating new opportunities in sectors like biomanufacturing. They both joined letters earlier this year urging the Economic Development Administration to select both the University of Maine (UMaine) and the Forest Opportunity Roadmap/Maine (FOR/Maine) Coalition and the Northeastern Coalition for of their Build Back Better Grants. In 2016, Senator King worked to establish the Forest Opportunity Roadmap (FOR/Maine) Initiativerequesting funding that made the coalition possible in order to diversify the Maine’s wood products businesses, attract investments, support research and development, and develop greater economic prosperity for rural communities impacted by mill closures. 

Both King and Pingree voted for and helped to negotiate the American Rescue Plan, which has given Maine the resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and help local economies recover. It included more than $128 million to expand Maine broadband, nearly $1.5 billion in aid to Maine’s state, county, and local governments, and over $56 million in assistance for Maine’s small business community. You can find a full overview of the American Rescue Plan’s full impact on the State of Maine HERE


"We are thrilled to have our proposal selected as a finalist in the Build Back Better Regional Challenge. UMaine has a well-established reputation for excellence in forestry and, increasingly, as a leader in the research and development of bio-based materials and their applications,” said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, President of the University of Maine. “Maine's public universities also will play an essential role in developing talent as this sector expands. We are grateful for this Phase 1 award and the many contributions of our partners. We look forward to working together to make this vision a reality." 

"It is exciting to be included in the broad and diverse coalition with the University of Maine System, and to be chosen as a finalist in the Build Back Better Regional Challenge," said Stephen Schley, Chair of the FOR/Maine Executive Committee. "Forests and forest products are at the heart of Maine’s rural communities and economy.  This initial grant is a significant boost towards realizing our forest bioeconomy vision for Maine, which includes market development, workforce development, forest inventory and supply chain sustainability and increased prosperity for all the communities we work with.  We are optimistic about the future ahead of us."

“Our mission at the Roux Institute is to work in close partnership with leading industry, community, and higher education organizations to catalyze economic development throughout Maine, and beyond,” said Chris Mallett, Chief Administrative Officer at the Roux Institute. “This exciting coalition of partners will harness the experience and resources of the entire region to lead the evolution of the robust biomanufacturing and advanced life sciences economy so essential to Maine’s future.” 

This award reinforces a fundamental pillar of FocusMaine's strategy to accelerate jobs in Maine in the biopharmaceutical sector,” said Dr. Kimberly Hamilton, President of FocusMaine. “Maine is strongly positioned to support regional biomanufacturing growth and to benefit from our proximity to research and development centered in Boston and Cambridge. This means more onramps for people in Maine to be a part of this transformational industry and more connections across the region to strengthen innovation and economic opportunity. We're excited to be a part of this extraordinary coalition of talented and visionary partners, to join forces with Northeastern University and the Roux Institute, and to have helped bring this opportunity to fruition for Maine.”

"The power of FOR/Maine lies in combining the insight, assets, and leadership of industry, communities, and innovation," said Yellow Light Breen, President and CEO of the Maine Development Foundation. "MDF has been honored to bring our role as a trusted nonpartisan facilitator and source of solutions-oriented data, to help the stakeholders come together and keep moving forward together to pursue an ambitious vision for the next generation of the forest bioeconomy. In our Build Back Better proposal, we will sustain and grow good paying jobs, especially in rural Maine. We do this by seeking unprecedented resources to: help both idle and active forest mill campuses redevelop or expand with next generation forest products and other complementary businesses; implement a more seamless, proactive approach to supporting thriving rural communities in their economic diversification and growth efforts; prepare the workforce of the future and attract talented Mainers into the sector; and pursue an equitable, inclusive approach that ensures that all Mainers, including historically excluded or disadvantaged groups, can participate and share meaningfully in the projects and in the economic benefits of the sector.  We are grateful to the many partners that made this Phase 1 award possible and that are committed to the work ahead."



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