Ashland receives $500,000 in grants to help develop a wood products mill

10 months ago

ASHLAND, Maine — A northern Maine town has been awarded a $500,000 grant to help bring a new wood products mill to the area. 

The grants are $500,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture Forestry Service, Community Project Funds, and WholeTrees LLC received $500,000 in Forest Recovery Initiative Phase II funding from the Maine Technology Institute, along with $100,000 in core funding from the Maine Technology Institute.

The $1 million in new investment will support the ramp-up of a facility in the Ashland area to fabricate structural round timber. The money will support salaries, recruitment, training and some operating costs for manufacturing the timbers.

Structural round timber is a slightly modified, natural tree trunk used for support beams, trusses, columns and other assemblies like playgrounds, according to WholeTrees, the manufacturer based in Madison, Wisconsin, that would start the mill. Whole Trees is working with Original Mass Timber Maine to scout out locations for the mill. The shuttered Moosewood Millworks in Ashland is among the locations under consideration.

Eau Claire, Wisconsin — August 8, 2023 — Worker examines the trusses made from structure round timber as part of a project for the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire in Wisconsin that was completed last year. (Courtesy of WholeTrees)

The company also produces prefabricated kits that come complete with fitted steel connectors. The product has environmental advantages because it requires no adhesives, takes little processing and uses local timber, according to Original Mass Timber Maine.

In addition to the latest grants, WholeTrees received $600,000 this year from the Maine Technology Institute.

Ashland began studying the timber product in 2020 as part of its effort to attract new forest product manufacturers. The town joined the Structural Round Timber Initiative, and worked with partners to create the Original Mass Timber Maine brand and develop East Coast markets for the product.

In 2022, Ashland received a $450,000 grant from the Future Forest Economy Initiative from the Maine Development Foundation that paid for a feasibility study using a model close to Ashland’s Moosewood Millworks, said Amelia Baxter, WholeTrees CEO and co-founder.

Whole Trees is working with Seven Island Land Co. to create an inventory of the species of trees in the area so the company can determine what it will use in the mill, Baxter said.

Ashland is one of the communities that the Maine Development Foundation has been working with since 2016 to attract the next generation of investment. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story contained some errors. Ashland received $500,000 in a grant from the USDA Forest Service, Community Project Funds. WholeTrees received $500,000 in Forest Recovery Initiative Phase II that was announced by Gov. Janet Mills Office in December 2022 as part of the Forest Recovery Initiative administered by the Maine Technology Institute. Ashland began studying the tim