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The Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) is pleased to announce the 2020 Regional Forest Economy Partnership (RFEP) grant opportunity. Eligible organizations, which include nonprofit and governmental entities (state, local and Indian tribes), will be able to access application details here beginning Friday, July 10. Total funding available for the program is $4 million, with a maximum award of $1 million. 

Potential applicants must express their interest by submitting a letter of interest by 5 p.m. on August 28. These letters will be evaluated by an advisory board, comprising representatives from each of the four NBRC states. The board will determine which applicants will be invited to submit a full application, which will be due October 30, with awards anticipated in December. 

The driving force behind the program is regional cooperation among NBRC states. As such, multi-state applications will be prioritized in the scoring process. The purpose of the program is to assist rural communities transition from a historic dependence on the forest-based economy to new opportunities for economic diversity and innovation. These opportunities tend to cluster around three strategies, which may or may not be considered mutually exclusive for purposes of a proposal:

  1. New technology and innovations that seek to find new uses for forest products, and evolve traditional forest economy business models into those that can create sustainable future commercial markets & opportunities. 
  2. Workforce re-training and development for the purpose of building the skills needed for forest products businesses. 
  3. New industries, or the expansion of current industries (e.g., outdoor recreation), that can provide employment and economic growth opportunities in formerly forest industry-dependent communities. 

COVID-19 Impacts. The RFEP opportunity in 2020 also focuses on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic (and resulting economic uncertainty) on communities in the NBRC region. As such, a fourth strategy considered in 2020 seeks proposals focused on collaborative, multi-state projects designed to address innovative solutions to structural weaknesses highlighted by the pandemic, and community efforts to recover economically.

Vermonters who are considering applying should contact NBRC staff member Kristie Farnham at kristie.farnham@vermont.gov or 802-398-5268.