7,300 Maine jobs at stake

By U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud

mike michaud    Earlier this year I conducted a weeklong tour of Maine’s pulp and paper sector. In addition to touring 13 facilities from Lewiston to Fort Kent, I asked people along the way to send me letters about the industry’s importance to them, their families, and their communities. I recently sent President Obama a summary of the findings from my tour along with 159 stories that were sent to me from Mainers.

    Those that wrote to me clearly spoke from the heart about what this industry means to them and their communities. I came from a mill town and worked in a paper mill for nearly 30 years. I know exactly where they are coming from in these letters and have been pushing for action on many of the issues raised for years.
    During the tour, major concerns were brought to my attention repeatedly, including: the subsidy package given in September 2012 by the province of Nova Scotia to the paper mill in Port Hawkesbury, energy costs, transportation challenges (reliability of freight rail), and federal environmental regulations. I’m hopeful the president will do everything in his power to work with me, Congress and his administration on these critical issues our pulp and paper sector continues to face. Judging by some of the letters from Mainers he’ll receive, he’ll know I’m not alone in my efforts.
    Here are just a few excerpts from the letters I sent to the president:
    “Business in the woods hasn’t changed much over the years in some ways. Contracts are still made with a handshake. However, the ability to make a profit is slipping away more every day. Not many years ago, fuel was 89 cents/gallon and therefore related products like tires and many parts were similarly low,” wrote Susan D’Alessandro of Millinocket.
    “Whenever I have brought friends from ‘away’ home to Rumford, I get a kick out of the way they crinkle their noses at the strong smell of sulfur. For those of us who grew up there, we joke that it ‘smells like money’— but now I worry that is no longer true,” wrote Mollie Kaubrys of Rumford.
    “I have been at Madison Paper for 10 years now and have realized this is the career that has given me the success and opportunities I was looking for. We are looking for fair trade and nothing more,” wrote Michael Croteau of Anson.
    “We are losing our young people every year as they move out of state to find good paying jobs. The paper industry provides some of the best paying jobs in the state,” wrote Archie Miller of Readfield.
    “The workers who depend on the mills extend far beyond the millworkers. The ripple effect is tremendous. Unfair trade is killing the wood industry,” wrote Thomas Targett of Portland.
    Mainers are clearly aware of the challenges facing our pulp and paper sector. The letters I received illustrate how important the industry is to our state and how critical federal policies are to its future. These letters echo the comments I heard directly from Mainers on my tour and they serve as a call to action.
    Whether it’s trade policy, energy prices, or regulatory issues, I’m hopeful that the Obama Administration will work with us to promote Maine’s paper sector and the 7,300 jobs it supports.

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