September 27, 2017

UMaine gets $455K for 'mass timber' commercialization center

Photo / James McCarthy
Photo / James McCarthy
Russell Edgar, wood composites manager at UMaine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center, demonstrates how cross-laminated timber products are tested for strength at the center.

The University of Maine System has landed a $454,532 federal grant to create a center to accelerate the use of Maine-sourced timber and engineered wood composites in place of steel and concrete for larger construction projects.

In a joint statement announcing the grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, said the funding would be used to create the Maine Mass Timber Commercialization Center as a resource for forest industry partners, trade organizations, construction firms, architects and other key stakeholders to revitalize and diversify Maine's forest-based economy.

Its chief focus would be to advance new forest products technologies and bring innovative mass timber manufacturing to Maine.

"Maine's forest products industry helps drive local economies throughout our state. By establishing the Maine Mass Timber Commercialization Center, UMaine and its forest industry partners are furthering important work to discover innovative ways to develop new forest products from our natural resources," Collins and King said in a joint statement. "This grant will help strengthen Maine's forest economy, support jobs in our rural communities and further diversify the industry. The possibilities are endless with the introduction of new technology and ingenuity."

The funding is a direct result of recommendations from Economic Development Assessment Team's assessment report delivered in January outlining strategies to leverage federal resources to redevelop former industrial sites and support the viability of affected mill communities to grow Maine's rural economy.

The EDAT was originally requested in March 2016 by Collins and King following closures of several Maine paper mills. The report released in January represented the culmination of those efforts and was accompanied by over $1.5 million in federal grants aimed at addressing critical needs.

In its annual meeting a year ago, the Maine Forest Products Council hosted several presentations about emerging markets for engineered wood products such as cross-laminated, nail laminated and glue-laminated timber as opportunities to boost the state's forest products industry, which saw its overall economic impact fall from $9.8 billion in 2014 to $8.5 billion in 2016.


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