WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine) last week announced the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) will award $1 million  in grant funding to the University of Maine.

The funding will help strengthen Maine’s forest economy and create jobs in rural Maine by increasing production of advanced bio-based products and support the purchasing of a former mill site.

“This substantial investment in Maine’s forest economy will help those who have relied on this crucial sector for generations,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “As our state continues its leadership in developing new sustainable bio-based technologies that create jobs, these awards will bolster efforts by UMaine to open more opportunities in rural communities. We are thrilled to see Maine’s forests remain a vital part of our culture and economy.”

The University of Maine will use the grant to build a demonstration scale nanocellulose plant to advance next generation bio-based products.

The funding award continues recent important investments in research and new product development in the industry. Last month, Collins and king joined Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn); Daniel Simmons, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy; and leaders from UMaine and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to announce the launch of a first in the nation large-scale bio-based additive manufacturing program and collaboration between ORNL and UMaine.

In March, Collins and King applauded an announcement from the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) that they have partnered to initiate the Mass Timber University Grant Program. The new grant program aims to promote the construction of mass timber buildings on American higher education campuses throughout the country. The announcement follows a December 2018 letter – led by Senator King and signed by Senator Collins – that urged the USFS to establish an award program for education institutions to explore new potential uses for mass timber.

The projects funded by these awards align with the recommendations put forward in the action plan released by the Forest Opportunity Roadmap (FOR/Maine) Initiative in September 2018, an industry-led initiative that aims to diversify the state’s wood products businesses, attract investments, and develop greater economic prosperity for rural communities impacted by mill closures. Senators Collins and King celebrated this action plan upon its release, which was funded in part by the Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT) requested by the Senators in 2016 in order to create strategies for job growth and economic development in Maine’s rural communities.

Collins and King introduced the Northern Border Regional Commission Reauthorization Act in March 2018 to bolster the Northern Border Regional Commission. NBRC funds grants for infrastructure projects throughout northern and central Maine, as well as northern New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont, spurring rural economic and community development. The NBRC reauthorization was included in the 2018 Farm Bill.

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