Press Release

October 2, 2019
Cardin, Van Hollen, Trone, Hail $150,000 Federal Grant for Forest Industry to Support Economic Development Across Maryland

WASHINGTON – Today, Senators Ben Cardin, Chris Van Hollen and Congressman David Trone (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.

“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.   

“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.
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.”


“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


“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, Senators Cardin and Van Hollen and Congressman Trone 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.