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Maine Development Foundation

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Commerce Department to Establish Economic Development Team to Strengthen Maine's Forest Economy and Assist Rural Communities Impacted by Mill Closures

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 30, 2016
MEDIA CONTACT
Annie Clark (Collins) 202-224-2523
Scott Ogden (King) 202-224-5344
Willy Ritch (Pingree) 202-225-6116
Brendan Conley (Poliquin) 202-225-6306
 
Commerce Department to Establish Economic Development Team to Strengthen Maine's Forest Economy and Assist Rural Communities Impacted by Mill Closures
 
WASHINGTON, D.C – U.S. Senators Angus King and Susan Collins and Representatives Bruce Poliquin and Chellie Pingree received letters today from the U.S. Department of Commerce announcing that it has agreed to establish an integrated, multi-agency Economic Development Assessment Team, known as an EDAT, to assist Maine’s forest products industry in the wake of several mill closures. The goal of the EDAT will be to leverage the power of multiple federal government agencies and harness stakeholder input to create economic development strategies that help pave the way for job growth in rural Maine communities in the years to come.
 
Maine’s Congressional delegation was informed of the decision in identical individual letters today from Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. Senators King and Collins originally requested the formation of the EDAT in a March 2016 letter to Secretary Pritzker.
 
“This announcement is welcome news for Maine,” the Maine Congressional Delegation said in a joint statement. “Our forest products industry is a central part of the state’s heritage and a vital pillar of the state’s economy, and an Economic Development Assessment Team will assist local public and private stakeholders in coordinating strategies so the industry can continue to be a source of good-paying jobs for Mainers for generations to come.”
 
In the letter, Secretary Pritzker announced that Commerce Department intends to deploy an EDAT on the ground in northern Maine for three days in July – the exact dates are to be determined – to “participate in a comprehensive set of stakeholder meetings to evaluate new and existing economic strategies for addressing the state’s forest-based economic challenges.”
 
“At the conclusion of the EDAT process, regional and local stakeholders will have a bottom-up strategy, developed with input from their Federal partners, designed to foster robust economic growth and recovery,” Secretary Pritzker wrote in her letters. “EDATs are not designed to be a silver bullet, but EDA and its Federal partners are committed to working closely with you and the Maine stakeholders to come to help struggling communities statewide work toward building a robust and enduring economy.”
 
Secretary Pritzker also wrote that the EDAT will be modeled off the National Disaster Framework and will be similar to those that the Economic Development Administration has used to address more than 30 prior major incidents and other economic development crises, such as the New England fisheries challenges, Deepwater Horizon oil pill, Joplin’s EF-5 tornado, and Colorado wildfires and flooding.
 
The EDAT will leverage resources from multiple federal agencies including the Economic Development Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Labor, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Treasury, the Small Business Administration, and the Northern Border Regional Commission.
 
The following text was sent in individual, identical letters to Senators King and Collins and Representatives Poliquin and Pingree today:
 
 
June 29, 2016
 
Following up from my previous letter on March 28, 2016, I am writing today to outline the Department of Commerce's response to the economic challenges occurring in Maine's forest-based economy. As I mentioned before, I have tasked the Economic Development Administration (EDA) with leading our response. Since March, EDA has taken steps to coordinate and prepare a multi-agency response to the region's economic challenges. EDA has worked diligently with your offices and regional stakeholders to encourage a community-led process capable of driving economic growth throughout Maine.
 
At the invitation of representatives from your state, we are excited to announce that an Economic Development Assessment Team (EDA T) will deploy to northern Maine next month and participate in a comprehensive set of stakeholder meetings to evaluate new and existing economic strategies for addressing the state's forest-based economic challenges. Over the course of three days, regional leaders, alongside the Federal partners, will have the opportunity to engage in an intensive set of economic development sessions, tours, and briefings in an effort to identify pathways of economic diversification and related Federal resources available to help develop those pathways. In particular, this process will also examine how local, state, and Federal partners can work together on new and existing research to foster future innovation and commercialization in the forest economy.
 
Modeled after the National Disaster Recovery Framework, this EDAT deployment will be similar to those EDA has used to address more than 30 prior major incidents and other economic development crises, including the New England fisheries challenges, Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Joplin's EF-5 tornado, and Colorado wildfires and flooding.
 
The Department and EDA believe that success in addressing this issue will depend upon a coordinated multi-agency effort and the dedication of significant public and private financial resources over an extended period of time. Furthermore, effectively addressing this issue will require the strong commitment and engagement of local, regional, and state leaders in Maine.
 
To that point, in addition to EDA, regional community representatives will meet with EDAT members from across the Federal Government, including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Labor, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Treasury, the Small Business Administration, and the Northern Border Regional Commission, along with invited economic development experts.
 
At the conclusion of the EDAT process, regional and local stakeholders will have a bottom-up strategy, developed with input from their Federal partners, designed to foster robust economic growth and recovery. EDATs are not designed to be a silver bullet, but EDA and its Federal partners are committed to working closely with you and the Maine stakeholders in the years to come to help struggling communities statewide work toward building a robust and enduring economy.
 
Sincerely,
 
Penny Pritzker
 
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