We can't give up

By Congressman Mike Michaud | Apr 16, 2011

Washington, D.C. — As some of you know, I worked at the East Millinocket paper mill for more than 29 years. The situation in the Katahdin region and the turmoil the families there having been dealing with over the status of the paper mills have been constantly on my mind and something I’ve been working on for weeks.

Reading in the news that the company that owns the mills was prepared to disassemble the East Millinocket mill and sell off the parts or scrap them frankly made me angry.

As I’ve worked with the towns of Millinocket and East Millinocket throughout this ordeal, I’ve been concerned with how they were treated and the unreasonable demands placed on them in the purchase negotiations.

But, over the years, I’ve also grown extremely frustrated with Washington’s inattention to our manufacturing sector as a whole, and the need to truly change our national trade stance – both of which have contributed greatly to where we are in manufacturing today.

Despite these obstacles, I firmly believe we should consider and support any and all options that will keep jobs in the region. Whether it’s by keeping the East Millinocket mill open, or restarting the Millinocket mill, while at the same time trying to find another tenant that complements the skills of the local workforce — we can’t give up.

To that end, I’ve spent the last several weeks turning over every stone to make sure all resources possible are available to mill workers and the towns, weighing in with the White House, the Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor, and personally requesting they provide any and all support available to reopen the mills and promote economic development in the region.

I am working to get the towns all the resources and support they can get to weather this storm, including Trade Adjustment Assistance, help through the Economic Development Administration, incentives through the New Market Tax Credit program, a National Emergency Grant, or funding to help cap the landfill.

Through this frustrating, slow-going effort, I’ve been heartened by the efforts put forth by so many to save the region’s jobs and our long and proud tradition of paper-making. People from all over have been contributing ideas and working to come up with solutions. It makes me proud to be from the Katahdin region and even prouder to have worked in the mill.

On April 15, I spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives to express solidarity with the people of the Katahdin region. I told my fellow colleagues that it looks like the paper mill in East Millinocket is shutting down and taking with it hundreds of jobs and much of the tax base.

Like so many other mills and factories across the country, it couldn’t keep its doors open. In fact, in the last decade, our nation has lost nearly 6 million manufacturing jobs and seen 50,000 factories close.

Our country simply hasn’t made it a national priority to build up our manufacturing sector and keep good-paying, blue-collar jobs here in the United States.

I urged my colleagues in Congress to help me – and workers in Maine and all over the country – by supporting a national manufacturing strategy and a new trade policy.

On the House floor that day I rose in solidarity with my neighbors in East Millinocket and those across the Katahdin region because I feel for each of them and have seen these closures affect my own friends and family in the past.

As I write this, the press reports on the future of the mills aren’t encouraging. Despite this, I’m confident if we all pull together we can find a way to put this mill back online. I still hold out hope that the governor’s team can find a way forward that preserves the mills and helps the towns. I for one, stand ready as a committed partner in their efforts.

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