President Biden at the White House Monday during an event where he announced 31 technology hubs across 32 states and Puerto Rico to help spur innovation and create jobs in the industries that are concentrated in these areas. Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

Maine has been designated a federal Forest Bioproducts Tech Hub and could receive $50 million to $75 million to accelerate research and development of natural polymers and other wood fiber bioproducts to replace plastics and toxic chemicals, Gov. Janet Mills announced Monday.

The Mills administration and the Maine Technology Institute sought the highly competitive designation for Maine’s Forest Bioproducts Advanced Manufacturing Tech Hub earlier this year.

The designation comes with a $500,000 planning grant and opens the door to significant further investment from the Biden administration, which would signal that Maine’s forest bioproducts sector has the potential for rapid growth in a foundational industry that has been flagging.

“Maine’s forest products sector is a key part of our state’s heritage and a cornerstone of our economic future,” Mills said in a prepared statement. “This exciting designation signifies to the world that Maine is a global leader in developing and manufacturing climate-friendly, sustainable products that create jobs and strengthen the U.S. supply chain.”

The Mills administration and MTI partnered with more than 30 Maine industries, businesses, innovators, workforce entities and institutions of higher education to propose the tech hub. They include the University of Maine, the Roux Institute, the Maine Community College System, Sappi, Idexx, Thornton Tomasetti, FOR/Maine, the AFL-CIO and the Maine Venture Fund.

The Maine hub is one of 31 federal tech hubs to be designated under the Tech Hubs Program created by President Biden’s CHIPS and Sciences Act. The bipartisan legislation, supported by Maine’s congressional delegation, is making historic investments to position American workers, businesses and communities at the cutting edge of industry.

Maine was selected from 198 applications representing industry, academia, state and local governments, economic development organizations, and labor and workforce partners.

The designation will allow Maine to apply for the next phase of the Tech Hubs Program, which will invest $50 million to $75 million in each of five to 10 designated hubs.

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