The Star-Herald

Town of Ashland buys 94 acres for development

ASHLAND, MaineThe Town of Ashland has announced the acquisition of a 94-acre site that will be developed for mixed commercial/industrial use and promises to attract new forest-product businesses.

The land purchase is part of an initiative which aims to diversify the community’s economy, expand workforce opportunities, and bolster town finances.

“This project is proof of Ashland’s resilience, strategic planning, and belief in the place they call home,” said Paul Towle, president of Aroostook Partnership. “This is the result of years of heartfelt and determined efforts to bring investors, landowners, town councilors and business owners together to take charge of the community’s economic future.” 

Towle said he sees a bright future for Ashland and the surrounding communities because of the enormous wood supply within close proximity to a well-developed private road network. 

“There is growing worldwide demand for renewable materials-based products to replace the fossil fuel-based products of today. With an experienced forest products manufacturing workforce in the region, an abundant fiber supply, and a first-class industrial site, new manufacturers will be well-positioned to meet the carbon-sequestering and renewable-product demands of future markets,” Towle said.

With funding from the Northern Maine Development Corporation’s Revolving Loan Fund, the town was able to negotiate the site purchase from the Carrier family. Guidance and support from Aroostook Partnership and the Ashland Area Economic Development Corporation has enabled the town to market to prospective tenants. Site tours are already underway with interested manufacturers and other business owners. 

After the ReEnergy biomass electric generation plant closed in 2019, Ashland faced dire circumstances from the loss of its largest commercial taxpayer and needed to rebuild its commercial base. Local volunteers incorporated the Ashland Area Economic Development Corporation to spearhead manufacturing attraction efforts. 

The economic development team opened a dialogue with the Carrier family in 2020 about purchasing from them a latent commercial site in town and the Northern Maine Development Corporation consented to finance the deal.

Don Tardie, president of the Ashland Area Economic Development Corporation, said Ashland is in the heart of what he called the “wood basket of the great North Maine Woods.” 

“We have excellent anchor institutions run by Seven Islands, Irving, Daaquam Lumber, Northeast Pellets, Katahdin Cedar Log Homes, as well as more than eight million acres of contiguous forests with which to grow our forest-products cluster,” Tardie said. “Our new Ashland Industrial Park will provide access to rail, water, sewer, and three-phase power on our open site for interested investors.”

“The forest products industry is incredibly important to northern Maine and the entire state,” said Steve Schley, chair of the FOR/Maine steering committee.  “Ashland’s announcement is the culmination of years of effort focused on advancing and diversifying the mix of forest products derived from abundant and locally sourced trees of many species, grades and quality. FOR/Maine shares in Ashland’s enthusiasm and forest products goals, and applauds all the partners who brought this opportunity to the region.” 

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