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Updated: September 30, 2019 On the record

Marina Bowie, of Biobased Maine, sees massive opportunity for the state's biomass

Photo / Tim Greenway Marina Bowie, who had been a program associate at Biobased Maine since graduating from the University of New Hampshire in 2018, was named executive director of the Portland-based organization in August.

Marina Bowie, who had been a program associate at Biobased Maine since graduating from the University of New Hampshire in 2018, was named executive director of the Portland-based organization in August. Mainebiz recently caught up with her.

Mainebiz: What is Biobased Maine?

Marina Bowie: Biobased Maine is a mission-driven trade association promoting sustainable use of renewable biomass from forests, farms and sea to manufacture renewable chemicals, materials and fuels. Our members include manufacturers of biobased [plant-based] chemicals and products, raw material suppliers, landowners, farmers, consultants, research institutions, private equity and non-governmental organizations. Growing the biobased industry will not only advance Maine’s economy by creating thousands of high-paying jobs, it will also make it more sustainable and help us to become a leader in the global effort to combat climate change. With an abundance of renewable natural resources, an experienced labor force and ready access to global markets, Maine is the opportune place to locate a biobased business. We’ve found tremendous interest when we market the state at national and international industry conferences, and with a renewable chemicals production tax credit currently on Gov. Janet Mills’s desk for signing, we are very optimistic about the industry’s future.

MB: So there’s a focus on out-of-state recruitment?

Bowie: Much of our work involves attracting and recruiting emerging biobased technology companies to Maine. We attend leading national and international conferences, such as the Bio World Congress, World Bio Markets and the Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership conferences, where we generate leads and connections for our members. We also recently completed the Challenge for Maine’s Forest Resources for the Maine Technology Institute, at which two emerging biobased technology companies, Biofine Developments Northeast in Bucksport and GO Lab in Belfast, were awarded $1.5 million. Together, these companies are predicted to create hundreds of good-paying jobs making renewable, climate-friendly products.

MB: What are some of the industry’s key issues?

Bowie: For Maine, one major barrier to capturing a market share in the global bioeconomy is our inability to access Renewable Identification Number credits under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-administered Renewable Fuels Standard. The RFS excludes sustainably harvested Maine forest residuals from qualifying, which means large biofuel companies interested in utilizing Maine’s woody biomass can’t be profitable here. We continue to work with Maine’s forest industry and U.S. Senate delegation to resolve this. In addition, Maine needs to be able to compete with other natural resource-rich states like Iowa and Minnesota that have renewable chemical production incentives. When Mills signs the renewable chemicals tax credit into law, it will encourage investment in biobased manufacturing in Maine over other states.

MB: Tell us about the road map you’re creating for the state’s bio industry.

Bowie: It’s an investment prospectus for biobased investors and will include data and guidance, including a look at the rising global market for biobased materials and products; a biomass cost study that characterizes the wood in Maine that lacks markets and could be used as feedstock for biobased manufacturing; inventory of industrial infrastructure for co-location that might be suitable for biobased manufacturing; strategic recommendations for infrastructure and workforce and more.

MB: What led you to this career?

Bowie: I’ve always been interested in climate change mitigation and adaptation, and in helping to solve large-scale, complex challenges. My previous work involved climate modeling at the University of New Hampshire Sustainability Institute, and working with small businesses to integrate sustainability as a priority and business development tool at Manomet. This role is a natural progression.

MB: You spent time in Copenhagen during college, what do you bring to the job from that experience?

Bowie: I was inspired to see sustainability incorporated in every part of society. I learned that in order to tackle today’s climate challenges, sustainability must be incorporated in everything we do and build. As long as the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainability are considered in development, we’re on the right track.

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