Our Take: Good investment news for Madison and the rest of Maine

It’s not just the sub-zero temperatures this week that reminds us of insulation. What happens at Madison’s old stationery would be good news no matter what the season.

Belfast-based GO Lab recently announced that it has secured $ 85 million in funding from the Finance Authority of Maine and the New Markets Tax Credit program, which, combined with the $ 35 million raised from private investors, will help the company to bring manufacturing back to the closed plant.

At full capacity, the plant is expected to produce three types of wood fiber insulation valued at $ 100 million per year. It will employ 120 people and help replace the 214 jobs lost when Madison Paper Industries closed in 2016, a victim of declining demand for paper.

The mill will also help Madison offset some of the loss in the community’s tax base suffered when the paper mill closed.

If successful, the project is large enough to transform the city. But the effects will be felt far beyond its borders.

The wood-fiber insulation plant, to be built by Cianbro, of Pittsfield, will be the first of its kind in North America, hoping to emulate what is a Industry of $ 700 million per year, and growing, in Europe. Everything indicates that the industry could grow rapidly in the United States, where wood fiber is cheaper and consumers can be ready for a product that sequesters carbon and has less toxicity than traditional insulation, all for about the same price.

And by making bulk, mattress, and panel insulation from softwood chips, the new industry could play a key role in supporting forest products here in Maine, filling the demand for unused wood fiber that was affected by the closure of the paper mills here. .

The investment in Madison is another example of the new generation of forest products trumping the old – a beneficial but slow transition. Besides the paper mills that have adapted to create products other than newspapers and magazines, there are companies that are using wood fiber in new and exciting ways.

The University of Maine, of course, helped create technology based on wood composites. There is a bright future for cross-laminated timber, which could replace climate-damaging steel and concrete in construction; if so, it could be built here.

Wood can be used for all kinds of products we need today, including biofuels, plastics, and chemicals. These innovative new uses can add value to the trees that cover Maine and jobs to communities that have lost so much in recent decades.

They can help replace what was lost when the paper industry collapsed here, and give old paper towns like Madison a chance for a bright future.

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