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Last week, Governor Phil Scott and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy encouraged Vermont communities struggling to overcome the decline in the forestry industry to consider using a new $7 million grant program to spur new economic opportunities.

The Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) is seeking grant proposals through its newly launched Regional Forest Economy Partnership from governmental units and non-profit organizations across a region that includes Vermont. The grant program aims to address the economic shift produced by the consistent decline of the forest products industry that has contributed to the displacement of workers and out-migration in the region. Through his work as Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Leahy directed the NBRC to support initiatives related to the forest-based economies and set aside a collective $7 million for this work.

Leahy included language in the 2018 Farm Bill expanding the NBRC territory to include every county in Vermont. This new program will be the first NBRC grant round open to communities across the entire state.

Applicants may apply for up to $1 million if they can demonstrate that any one of four criteria are met:  an industry change in employment due to a decline in the forest industry, a wage reduction, a mill closure in the past 20 years, or county level out-migration. The NBRC is encouraging applications that have a multi-state benefit.

To apply, visit nbrc.gov/content/Regional-Forest-Economy-Partnership. The NBRC has announced multiple application rounds. The first deadline for letters of intent is March 15, 2019.

Created in the 2008 Farm Bill, the NBRC is a federal-state partnership with a mission to help alleviate economic distress and encourage private-sector job creation throughout portions of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. Since its inception, the commission has awarded just over $30 million, which has leveraged $87 million to support 155 grants across the four states. In Vermont, it has funded 58 projects totaling $10.6 million.