Logging in the spotlight on Western Maine jobs tour
Lawmakers visit Region 9 School of Applied Technology, thriving logging company
MEXICO – State lawmakers toured a career and technical school and a thriving logging company on Monday, as part of the statewide jobs tour led by House Speaker Mark Eves.
“We had a chance to see first hand how new technology is transforming Maine’s traditional logging industry and its workforce,” said Eves, D-North Berwick. “We spoke with students who are landing good-paying jobs in growing industries all because they were able to get the training they needed. Investing in training our students and workers is key to our state’s economic success.”
The jobs tour gives lawmakers the opportunity to talk to workers, employers and community officials about growing good jobs and strong wages. Speaker Eves, House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan and Assistant Majority Leader Sara Gideon of Freeport joined area lawmakers for the stop in Western Maine at the Region 9 School of Applied Technology and the Nicols Brothers’ logging company.
“The logging industry has changed so much with new technology,” said Jim Nicols, owner of the Nicols Brothers’ logging company in Rumford. “It is no longer walking into the woods with a lunch pail. We need workers to have extensive training on complex machines.”
Nicols told lawmakers that the Region 9 school was important for growing his company. He and his brother started the company in 1979 and they employ 25 people. Eight of their employees trained at the Region 9 school.
Rep. Matt Petterson of Rumford said investing in more training at the school and other schools like it was important for the area, which has struggled during the economic recovery.
“The state should invest in training. The return is good jobs and strong wages for our state. It’s a win for everyone,” said Rep. Peterson.
Eves is proposing a statewide investment of $5 million over five years to create at least 10 public-private partnerships to support job training in high-demand fields. The measure would also fund scholarships for workers and students to gain the skills they need to fill jobs in growing sectors, including agriculture, high skilled manufacturing, information technology and health care.
Dana Doran, who heads the association of Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, urged lawmakers to bolster investment in training for the Forest Products Industry.
The Region 9 program is one of only four forestry programs in the state, despite Maine’s status as being the most forested state in the nation.
“Our school is helping to create a pipeline for local businesses and meeting the needs of a thriving Maine industry,” said Brenda Gammon, the director of the Region 9 School of Applied Technology. “Our students are getting good jobs right after they finish training.”
Senator John Patrick of Rumford praised the school and the Nicols company for the opportunity they have offered for area workers and students.
“If we want our economy to succeed, we have to stand up for our workers,” said Senator Patrick. “Workers are the backbone of our state and our products are only as good as the hard-working people who make them.”
Speaker Eves launched the jobs tour in January to spotlight the need for more jobs and better wages in the state. Lawmakers have met with employers, workers, and community leaders across the state in York, Aroostook, Kennebec, and Somerset counties.
Maine’s economy lags behind the nation, with a significant jobs gap and stagnating wages. Maine would have 19,000 more jobs now if the state were keeping up with the national recovery. Maine’s wages are 20 percent lower, on average, than wages across the United States – even those states with similar demographics like Vermont and New Hampshire have higher average wages.