Rep. David Trone and Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (all D-Md.) hailed the announcement of a $150,000 federal grant from the Economic Development Administration to the Western Maryland Resource Conservation and Development Council. The grant would support the development of the Forestry Economic Strategy, an action plan for countering the economic impact of mill closures across the state of Maryland including the closure of Verso’s mill in Luke, Maryland earlier this year.
The plan will provide a roadmap for capitalizing on new opportunities in the forest industry which will lead to the creation of jobs and businesses in designated Opportunity Zones throughout the region.
“It’s essential that we invest in industries in Western Maryland and throughout the state that create jobs and boost our economy,” said Congressman David Trone, member of the Education and Labor Committee. “This grant from the EDA shows strong federal investment in the forest industry and will result in more jobs for Western Marylanders and former Luke Mill workers. I will continue to fight for federal dollars that will invest in a region that is too often forgotten.”
“Continued federal investment in rural industries will make a real difference in the lives of Western Marylanders and across the country,” said Senator Cardin,” a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “It is essential that we promote strategic plans that work with our local communities that have faced significant job losses and map out a path toward recovery and growth.”
“Following the closure of Luke Mill, our state, local, and federal partners teamed up to provide resources and assistance to the workers and the community. This investment is another example of that teamwork, and I was proud to support the Western Maryland RC&D Council’s application for these funds. This plan will help make our communities stronger and will expand upon Western Maryland’s economic potential. I will continue working in Congress to provide the resources necessary to grow and invest in Western Maryland’s success,” said Senator Van Hollen, a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committees.
“The EDA investment in our Opportunity Zones will continue to grow economic development in our region,” said Jeff Cline, President of the Washington County Commissioners. “A well-deserved award creating new opportunities.”
“Washington County is a proud partner of the Western Maryland Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc’s in its mission to build and sustain resource conservation programs,” said Rob Slocum, Washington County Administrator. “Washington County looks forward to partnering with the Western Maryland counties to expand the forestry economic development synergy.”
“Western Maryland Resource Conservation and Development Council is pleased to have been awarded a U.S. Department of Commerce EDA grant to develop an Economic Adjustment Strategy for Maryland’s forest products sector,” said Josh Smith, Executive Director of Western Maryland Resource Conservation and Development Council. “We would like to thank our partners, especially the Maryland Forest Service, who worked diligently with us to develop this project proposal. We would also like to thank all of our partners who have committed matching funds to this effort, including Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Department of Commerce, MARBIDCO, Allegany Soil Conservation District, Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, Association of Forest Industries, Maryland Forests Association, and Maryland Department of Agriculture. We recognize the vital importance of the forest industry to the economic health of not only Western Maryland, but all of Maryland, and are eager to begin working with our partners and stakeholders to address the decline within the forest industry.”
Additional investment from the federal government comes after the region took a hit when Verso announced that it would close its paper mill in Luke, Maryland on April 30, 2019. On July 13, 2019 Congressman Trone and Senators Cardin and Van Hollen announced Maryland’s Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Verso was approved by the U.S. Department of Labor, providing the approximately 675 employees the resources they need to gain employment after the closure of the mill. The trio has consistently pushed for increased investment in Western Maryland, including the expansion of rural broadband to bring businesses and jobs to the region as discussed during their rural broadband roundtable in September.