An emergency bill to support the redevelopment of closed factories and mills in rural Maine became law June 12.

Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, sponsored the bill that created a new program within the Maine Rural Development Authority to provide technical assistance and grants for redevelopment and marketing of shuttered industrial and manufacturing facilities. A list of rural industrial and manufacturing sites eligible for assistance will be maintained by the MRDA and the Department of Economic and Community Development.

From 2009 to 2016, the closure of six pulp, paper and paperboard mills, four of which were on the Penobscot River, resulted in the loss of 2,554 jobs in the state, according to the Center for Workforce Research and Information.

Lindsay Crete, communications director for Maine House Democrats, said the bill was introduced as emergency legislation so communities could start to use the new Rural Manufacturing and Industrial Site Redevelopment Program as soon as possible.

“It can be really devastating when a heritage industry closes in rural Maine, and this will help alleviate some of that,” she said.

Herbig said during a committee hearing that the bill was inspired by Belfast’s turnaround after closure of its chicken processing plants and shoe factories brought down the local economy. Herbig met with her hometown’s city manager and economic development director and learned that the city’s transformation was achieved through the collaboration of experts and community members “to leverage what we had and modernize what makes us proud to live in Belfast in the first place,” she said.

“For example, we created green spaces, cleaned up and invested in our local downtown infrastructure and worked with current and incoming businesses to ensure we were an attractive location for businesses,” she said. “(This bill) would mimic that idea for other rural Maine towns.”

The bill passed the House June 8 and the Senate June 9 with the required two-thirds majorities, without roll-call votes, and was signed by the governor June 12.

Editors note: A previous version of this story misstated the amount of funding the Rural Manufacturing and Industrial Site Redevelopment Program would receive. The bill was amended to fund the program with existing Rural Development Authority funds.