Touting its vast forests and his administration’s ability to cut through red tape, Gov. Paul LePage pitched Maine as the perfect place for bioenergy executives to make investments.
LePage offered his remarks to open the third day of the Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference in San Francisco. The conference, which drew a crowd of more than 300, was convened to bring together investors, reseachers, policy makers, executives and others interested in tapping renewable natural resources for new industrial uses.
Maine has more than 17 million acres of forestland, and its economy has been hampered by the closure of five paper mills in three years — mills that used to be a primary market for wood and pulp. In its wake, several initiatives have sprung up, including proposals to build bioenergy parks that can revive unused biomass power plants and support new, connected businesses.
“I want to be sure that the word is out there that we are open for business,” said LePage, in his remarks.
He noted that the state supports 24,000 forest-related jobs, about half of what it was years ago when all the mills were running and robust.
But the state is reinventing itself, trying to attract companies like Ensyn Fuels Inc., which now provides wood-based biofuel to help power Bates College in Lewiston. He also noted that the University of Maine received $3.3 million from the Defense Logistics Agency to help its research in converting wood fiber into jet fuel.
In January, he expects the Legislature to begin debate on a $50 million commercialization bond intended to bring new products to market, something that could help attract bio-based companies to Maine. This session, a bill that would have authorized a $55 million bond to accelerate growth and capital investment stalled and was ultimately held over.
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