BANGOR, Maine — The Northern Maine Development Commission will receive about $1.9 million to establish a Renewable Energy Industry Cluster with the goal of creating jobs by replacing or supplementing fuel oil furnaces in homes and businesses with wood biomass units.
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud praised the announced funding for the project, which is called “GreenMe” and could result in the creation of more than 400 jobs over the next four years in Washington and Aroostook counties.
“This cluster initiative will bring together a diverse and experienced group of partners to focus on the common goal of moving this region forward,” said Michaud. “It also has the added benefit of promoting the adoption of affordable renewable energy, which will save Mainers money in the long run and benefit home owners and businesses alike.”
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins also praised the announcement Thursday. “Fifty-five Maine businesses that employ more than 500 people are partnering to spur the adoption of new technologies to accelerate economic growth and build a secure foundation for good, high-paying jobs,” said Collins said in a prepared statement. “These funds will enhance regional business development in the region. Businesses that locate in clusters build the foundation they all rely on to succeed, even as they compete with one another. Because of this, clusters are often at the heart of strong regional economies.”
The project is one of 20 funded nationwide through the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, a multi-agency competition to support the development of high-growth industry clusters across America’s regions. The federal agencies partnering on the Maine project and providing funding are the Economic Development Administration, which is funding $782,500; the Small Business Administration, $150,000 and the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, $995,725.
The project’s objective is to transition 9,000 residential units and 20 commercial facilities to primary or supplemental wood biomass fuel in four years, thus resulting in 260 direct industry jobs and 196 indirect and induced jobs in the regional economy.
“This project is based on the assets and strengths of the regions that are within our control,” NMDC Executive Director Bob Clark said. “We hope to generate a renewable energy economy for Aroostook and Washington counties by utilizing existing alternative energy resources, applying innovation and retaining money that normally flows out of our region to stimulate the economy.”
Implementing the renewable energy strategy will require a comprehensive and targeted work force development strategy to train mechanical engineers, biological technicians, electrical engineers and residential and commercial heating installers.