New UMaine, Oak Ridge Lab partnership to help state’s forest economy, media report

The Bangor Daily News, WABI (Channel 5), WVII (Channel 7), Mainebiz, Woodworking Network and The Free Press reported on newly announced federal funding that will help members of the Maine Forest Economy Growth Initiative begin implementing strategies to strengthen and diversify Maine’s valued forest economy. At a press conference in Passadumkeag, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine announced federal grants aimed at addressing critical needs, including $1 million to develop a long-term vision and strategic plan. Officials said the money will aid mill site redevelopment, broadband access for mill communities, small-business support and high school training programs, the BDN reported. Also announced was a commitment for the Tennessee-based Oak Ridge National Laboratory — the U.S. Department of Energy’s largest research center — to help researchers at the University of Maine tackle the future of bio-based materials, including nanocellular technology, biofuels and additive manufacturing, Erskine said. State, UMaine and Oak Ridge officials hope to meet to discuss next steps in a few weeks, according to the BDN. Jake Ward, UMaine’s vice president of innovation and economic development, and Stephen Shaler, director of UMaine’s School of Forest Resources, are members of the Maine Forest Economy Growth Initiative. “The university is a resource for the industry,” Shaler told WABI. “It’s a resource for the communities. But it will help us be a stronger partner and provide that support.” Two other members of the initiative also wrote an opinion piece for the BDN titled, “It’s time for Maine’s forest products industry to reinvent itself. Here’s how.”