The University of Maine will be among the top beneficiaries of $11 million in federal funding that will go toward strengthening economic opportunities in rural Maine communities.

The Ferland Engineering Education and Design Center at University of Maine, Orono. The university will get funding to help establish a new immersive manufacturing center. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The University of Maine will receive $1 million to help establish a new immersive manufacturing center called the GEM, or Green Energy and Materials Gateway – a factory of the future. The facility will house flexible manufacturing spaces with a focus on producing sustainable, bio-based materials.

“This project will enable the growth of a new, innovative and sustainable form of wood residual manufacturing and the preparation of an innovation-ready Maine workforce,” said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, University of Maine president and UMaine system vice chancellor for research and innovation.

Ferrini-Mundy thanked the governor and the Maine congressional delegation for help in securing the federal funding.

Gov. Janet Mills and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, along with officials from the Northern Border Regional Commission, announced the awards Wednesday during a visit to the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composite Center in Orono.

Mills and Collins in a joint statement said the $11 million, which will be funded with money from the commission’s catalyst program, will be distributed to 16 organizations in rural Maine. Catalyst program funds come from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Mills recommended project funding from the commission’s federal allocation.


“These historic investments will strengthen Maine’s heritage industries, enhance our outdoor economy, increase our resiliency to climate change, and create good-paying jobs in our rural communities,” Mills said.

“From the time of its founding, the investments supported by the NBRC have helped to ensure that rural regions have the economic tools they need to prosper,” said Collins, vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The NBRC is a federal and state partnership focused on encouraging private sector job creation in the Canadian border states of Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. The NRBC on Wednesday announced those states will receive about $44 million in all. The award is the largest since NBRC was established in 2008.

Other Maine projects selected for funding include construction of a new terminal at the Presque Isle International Airport, $1 million; $991,00 for infrastructure improvements in Greenville that will support a workforce housing project; $750,000 for the redevelopment of the former East Millinocket mill site; $671,000 for climate resiliency enhancements in Stonington that will help with transportation of lobsters to market; and $380,000 to increase snowmaking operations at the nonprofit Black Mountain of Maine ski area in Rumford.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said the $294,000 awarded to the Knox County Regional Airport will help fund installation of electric automobile and aircraft charging stations. The aircraft charging station will be the first at a Maine airport and will enable the delivery of mail, parcels and groceries to neighboring island communities using clean, electrically charged aircraft.

A full list of Maine organizations receiving funding and a detailed description of the awards can be found here.

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