The U.S. Department of Commerce will be sending an economic development assessment team to Maine next month following a request by members of Maine’s congressional delegation to bring more federal resources to the state the day after Madison Paper announced in March that it would be closing.

The new Economic Development Assessment Team will bring together federal agencies and business stakeholders to create economic development strategies and focus on job growth in the wake of several mill closures, according to a press release Thursday from the delegation.

“The announcement is welcome news for Maine,” said the joint statement from Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District. “Our forest products industry is a central part of the state’s heritage and a vital pillar of the economy. An Economic Development Assessment Team will assist local public and private stakeholders in coordinating strategies so the industry can continue to be a source of good paying jobs for Mainers for generations to come.”

On Friday, Collins, King and Poliquin will tour the Sappi Fine Paper mill in Skowhegan to discuss the importance of assessment team and how it can be used as a tool to reinvigorate Maine’s forest products industry.

The formation of the team was announced by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker in identical letters to the congressional delegation. The letter said the department of commerce intends to deploy members of the team on the ground in northern Maine for three days in July, although exact dates have yet to be determined, according to the release.

The team will be modeled off the National Disaster Framework and will be similar to groups the federal Economic Development Administration has used to address more than 30 other major incidents and economic development crises, such as the New England fisheries challenges, Deepwater Horizon oil spill and Colorado wildfires and flooding, the release said.


Other agencies that will be involved include the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Labor, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Treasury, the Small Business Administration, and the Northern Border Regional Commission. Representatives from those groups will also meet with local community and business representatives to discuss strategies for economic growth and recovery as part of the assessment team process, the release said.

The teams “are not designed to be a silver bullet, but the Economic Development Administration and its federal partners are committed to working closely with you and the Maine stakeholders to help struggling communities statewide work toward building a robust economy,” Pritzker wrote in her letters to the delegation.

The Maine Pulp and Paper Association applauded the formation of the team in a news release Thursday and commended Collins and King, who initially wrote a letter requesting the formation of the team to Pritzker in March on the day after Madison Paper Industries announced it would be closing, resulting in about 200 layoffs.

Maine’s forests are healthy and the state’s pulp and paper mills continue to employ thousands of Maine residents despite recent closures and layoffs, Donna Cassese, chairperson of the Maine Pulp and Paper Association, said in the release.

“Management at existing Maine mills has been working very diligently to ensure that business models, product mixes and investments in infrastructure will allow for long-term, lucrative operations, as the recipe for survival today looks much different than ever before,” Cassese said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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