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March 30, 2016

Commerce Secretary Tells King that Department is Committed to Assisting Maine’s Rural Communities in Wake of Mill Closures

In letter to King, Secretary Pritzker says Commerce Department will work with Maine in its efforts to address challenges in forest economy; declares that economic development tour led by King today will help agency determine response to mill closures

MILLINOCKET, ME – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) announced that Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker has informed him that she has instructed a team from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to begin leading the Commerce Department’s efforts to assist rural communities in Maine, like Millinocket, East Millinocket, Medway, and Lincoln, as they work to recover from the economic downturn resulting from the closure of several area mills over the past few years.

In a letter delivered to Senator King and Senator Susan Collins late yesterday, Commerce Secretary Pritzker told them that she was aware of the recent mill closures and job losses within Maine’s pulp and paper industry and affirmed the Department’s commitment to assisting impacted communities. She informed the Senators that, to that end, the economic development tour Senator King is leading today in the Katahdin region with EDA Regional Director Linda Cruz-Carnall will serve as the first opportunity for the Commerce Department to evaluate the problems facing Maine’s rural communities and serve as the basis for a detailed response plan by the Commerce Department. Secretary Pritzker also told them that she has asked EDA leadership to keep her personally informed of their ongoing effort to support the state. To read the letter, click HERE.

            “Secretary Pritzker’s letter is a welcome step forward as we work to find ways to help Maine communities like Millinocket or Madison get back up on their feet after these devastating mill closures,” Senator King said. “In fact, for many of these communities, the closures are the equal of an economic hurricane, putting people out of work, shuttering store fronts, and leaving too many feeling hopeless. These folks deserve better, and with this announcement today, with these economic development tours, and with the many discussions to come, I hope we can begin the process of charting a new, brighter path for these areas. It will certainly be a long and arduous road, but, as in every challenge we face as a state, when we prevail together, we’ll be stronger for it.”

The announcement came on the second and final day of Senator King’s economic development tour in the Katahdin region where he, along with Ms. Cruz-Carnall and other federal officials, continued to meet with local leaders to discuss the state’s forest products industry and visit area businesses. This morning, they toured manufacturer Millinocket Machine and Fabrication, and later this afternoon ‎will participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony at Designlab, a graphic design and marketing company that relocated to Millinocket in 2015.

Yesterday, Senator King and representatives from multiple federal agencies convened a large roundtable discussion on challenges and opportunities for the state’s forest products industry that comprised more than 70 stakeholders across multiple sectors of the forest economy, from land owners and biomass stakeholders to mill operators and logging truckers. He then toured several businesses in the area, including PK Floats in Lincoln, Scotts Co. in Medway, and Maine Heritage Timber in Millinocket.

Senator King’s economic development tour and the response from Secretary Pritzker follow a recent letter signed by him and Senator Susan Collins urging the Commerce Department to establish a multiagency Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT) focused on Maine’s forest-based economy. The announcement today represents a step forward in that process.

The full letter from Commerce Secretary Pritzker, which was sent to both Senators King and Collins, can be read HERE.


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