Coalition announces plan to build forest economy

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FOR/Maine (Forest Opportunity Roadmap), a broad coalition working to diversify the state’s wood products businesses, attract capital investments, and develop greater economic prosperity for communities impacted by recent mill closures, is pleased to announce an action plan to grow Maine’s forest economy from the current $8.5 billion (annual) to $12 billion by 2025. This growth would position the state to compete in and take advantage of substantial global market opportunities.

The Roadmap Action Plan outlines how the industry will achieve the projected 40 percent growth, much of it coming from new markets for the state. The sector will build on traditional strengths like saw logs and paper, and add new layers of innovative products – including eco-friendly chemicals, bio-degradable plastics, and medical and technical products made from nanocellulose – many of which can be made from the residuals of other wood manufacturing processes.

The Roadmap is the culmination of two years of coordinated research and strategy development, informed by extensive data, global benchmarking, and industry expertise. It reveals Maine’s competitiveness in new global markets, and outlines five goals and 17 matched strategies to realize the opportunity, and build a more diverse $12 billion forest economy annually:

Goal #1: Sustain and grow Maine’s existing and emerging forest products economy, reaching $12 Billion in economic impact by 2025. This includes attracting investment in the forest products industry, marketing Maine’s bioeconomy to national and global audiences, and accelerating innovation in forest products and applications to leverage Maine’s leadership position within the industry.

Goal #2: Manage the wood resource using sustainable and responsible forest management practices. This is informed by accurate and current data about Maine’s forests.

Goal #3: Prepare workforce for the future of the forest products economy. This entails making sure that current workers have the skills they need, and that Maine is positioned to attract and prepare the necessary workforce for emerging products and new opportunities.

Goal #4: Increase prosperity in Maine forest economy communities, especially those in rural Maine, including those affected by mill closures. This involves coordinated efforts across local, regional, state, and federal entities to attract capital investment.

Goal #5: Organize the forest products industry with committed public sector partners, including the University of Maine, to implement the vision and goals. This requires sustained, collaborative and coordinated effort across local, regional, state and federal entities.

The benefits of a strong forest products sector extend far beyond the companies and workers directly in the industry. Indeed, 1 of every 24 jobs in Maine and estimated $1 out of every $20 of Maine GDP come from the forest industry. In addition to economic benefits, working forests provide environmental benefits including carbon sequestration, filtration of the water supply, and habitat for wildlife, as well as recreation and quality of life for Mainers and tourists.

The opportunity to create the next great era of Maine forestry is available, but to seize this economic growth for Maine, we must all work together to create the conditions to attract new investment here. This will include ongoing coordination and cooperation between industry, state and federal government, and forest communities, supported by the Maine public and non-profits.

For more information, and to read the full Roadmap report, please visit: www.formaine.org. You can also follow the efforts at: www.facebook.com/formaine.