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Updated: March 9, 2022

Maine awards $6M in pandemic relief to forest products businesses

Rolling pins made from wood Courtesy / Wells Wood Turning & Finishing Grant recipient Wells Wood Turning & Finishing, based in Buckfield, makes rolling pins like those shown in this picture.

Hundreds of Maine logging, timber trucking and other forest products companies harmed by the pandemic are in line to receive $6 million in grants from the state, Gov. Janet Mills announced Tuesday.

The grants, funded by the Forests Recovery Initiative of the governor's Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, have been awarded to a total of 224 companies, the vast majority of which are in rural parts of the state.

Some 83% of grant recipients employ 10 or fewer people, and 80% are in Aroostook, Penobscot, Somerset, Oxford or Piscataquis counties. The average grant is around $27,000, and awards are expected to be delivered in April.

Mills announced the $20 million Forest Recovery Initiative grant program through her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan last November. The initiative provides financial relief to forest-related businesses that have been adversely affected by COVID-19 to help them keep operations running. 

“Our forest products industry is a cornerstone of our economy and the lifeblood of rural communities across Maine, employing tens of thousands of hardworking folks who make their living from our forests, just like generations before them,” Mills said.

“I want to make sure that our forest products industry, and the jobs it provides, remains strong for generations to come. These grants are a direct investment in that goal, in our forest products sector, and in rural Maine, helping sustain these vital businesses and jobs.”

Noting that the sector was disproportionately affected by the pandemic, Heather Johnson, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, said, “These grants will strengthen the future of our forest products industry, a critical part of our state’s economy and cultural identity."

Maine Technology Institute, led by President Brian Whitney, will administer the grant program. First-round grants will provide direct funding for several purposes, from payroll costs and expenses to rent or mortgage payments for business facilities. A second round of grants is planned for the spring.

First-round grant recipients include Wells Wood Turning & Finishing, a company based in Buckfield that employs 30 people and is looking to hire more, according to Chris Chandler, the company's president.

In the meantime, he said the funds will allow the company "to improve both our processes and productivity in a challenging market" and enable it to maintain its position as one of country's premier manufacturers of rolling pins. 

Maine Woods Co., a lumber manufacturer in Portage Lake, is another grant recipient.

"This award will help the dedicated employees of Maine Woods Co. install cutting edge technology to control costs while delivering an even better Maine made product to the world," said that company's president, Chris Chandler. "We are grateful to the governor for recognizing the difficulties facing the forest products industry.”

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