If passed by the full Congress and signed by the President, the FY23 federal budget will provide $53.3 million to the System in one-time funding to advance key university workforce development and innovation projects, many of them led by the R1 University of Maine, to address state needs

Orono, Maine — Leaders across the University of Maine System (UMS) are praising the Maine congressional delegation led by Sen. Susan Collins for securing critical investments in draft fiscal year 23 Senate and House appropriations bills for university infrastructure that directly supports workforce development and innovation.

Sen. Collins announced today the Senate Appropriations Committee, on which she serves as a senior member, was including $45.6 million in its proposed FY23 appropriations bills for UMS projects for which she and Sen. Angus King had requested funding.  

An additional $63 million was included in support of the University of Maine’s (UMaine) request to increase programmatic funding that will flow through federal agencies.

Earlier in the month, Rep. Jared Golden also announced the House Appropriations Committee had included $7.75 million he had requested to advance two UMS requests for UMaine projects, including to establish manufacturing training innovation centers in Orono, South Portland and Brunswick, and a sawmill operations training facility in Old Town to upskill the forest workforce. 

“Maine’s congressional delegation rightfully recognizes that the University of Maine System is a vital statewide educational and economic asset that uniquely drives growth and opportunity here and in the region. On behalf of our entire System, I want to thank the delegation led by Sen. Collins for championing this significant federal funding that will strengthen our ability to collaborate to better serve the state and world through cutting-edge education and research that will further attract more talent, innovation and investment to Maine,” said Chancellor Dannel Malloy.

Together, the $53.3 million in one-time federal investments, often referred to as earmarks, would expand current capacity across Maine’s public universities to address critical state needs, and leverage other public and private dollars. 

For example, if the full Senate and House ultimately vote to pass the FY23 appropriations bills, funds would establish a new per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) research and outreach center at UMaine, support the construction of a world-leading Green Engineering and Materials Factory of the Future connected to UMaine’s Advanced Structure and Composites Center, and grow university workforce training programs across the state, including in nursing, dental assisting, entrepreneurship, advanced manufacturing and aviation maintenance.  

All of the UMS proposals were backed by strong support letters from relevant industry, nonprofit and municipal partners that noted the high-impact community benefit of the project.

“We are incredibly grateful to Sens. Collins and King and Reps. Pingree and Golden for their efforts in helping secure such significant federal funding for our universities,” said UMS Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation and UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy. “These projects leverage our System’s signature strengths and community connections, especially the world-class research capacity of the University of Maine, the only R1 institution in our state.

“Sen. Collins’ leadership, along with that of the entire delegation, reflects a deep commitment to the students of Maine, ensuring that they have access to world-class educational opportunities, are trained in state-of-the-art facilities, and are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to address the challenges of our modern world.”

Many of the projects will have a statewide impact and put Maine on the forefront in research and innovation to solve growing global problems like managing the threat of disease from pests like ticks and climate change adaptation for natural resource industries — including Maine’s iconic wild blueberries.

“The University of Maine’s Blueberry Hill Farm in Jonesboro is the only dedicated wild blueberry research facility in the country. This facility, and the university’s incredible team of wild blueberry research and Extension faculty and staff have helped this industry grow from producing 20 million pounds of fruit per year, to today, when crops frequently exceed 100 million pounds,”  said Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine Executive Director Eric Venturini. 

“This critical investment requested by Sens. Collins and King would modernize Blueberry Hill Farm and bring it to the next level — a hub of innovation and problem solving that will help Maine’s wild blueberry farms and businesses diversify into value-added production, explore efficiencies in harvesting and processing, and increase resilience to climate change threats like drought. It is strategic investments like these that will grow this industry’s impact on Maine’s economy beyond the current estimate of $250 million per year, and that will sustain and grow Maine’s iconic wild blueberry industry and the thousands of jobs that it supports well into the future.”

Other federally funded projects would uniquely serve regional needs, but could likely not be supported within existing UMS resources. For example, the FY23 appropriations bills include $4 million to improve Fox Auditorium on the campus of the System’s northernmost university. 

“On behalf of all of us at the University of Maine at Fort Kent and the entire St. John Valley, I want to thank Sens. Collins and King for their tireless work to secure funding to make badly needed renovations to Fox Auditorium, which was built in 1969,” said UMFK President Deb Heeden. 

“Whether hosting a town meeting or a drama production put on by the local high school, this facility is a cornerstone of the community that provides opportunities for connection, celebration and culture so important to preserving the quality of life and heritage of our rural region. This investment will ensure Fox Auditorium can continue to play a leading role in bringing our community together for generations to come.”  

Meanwhile, $750,000 would expand dental workforce training and care, also in Northern Maine.

“Aroostook County leads Maine in the percentage of its older residents who have lost all of their permanent teeth to dental diseases. The federal funds Sens. Collins and King are working to secure will allow the University of Maine at Augusta to expand its growing dental workforce degree programs, currently offered in Bangor and Lewiston, to the University of Maine at Presque Isle, preparing more in-demand dental assistants and expanded functions dental assistants for this underserved rural area,” said UMPI President Ray Rice and UMA President Joe Szakas.

“In addition to academic program start-up costs, these funds will allow us to launch a new dental lab on the Presque Isle campus where our students will get high-impact, hands-on training providing free and reduced community dental services, including to area veterans. We think this partnership will be a real game-changer in improving the oral, public and economic health of the County.”

A complete list of the UMS projects for which at least one member of Maine’s congressional delegation has advanced FY23 appropriations is below. All projects are in the Senate appropriations bills, with the exception of those marked House. 

UMaine Green Engineering and Materials Factory of the Future

Advanced-Manufacturing Materials Research

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Orono, Maine

Amount Requested: $8,000,000

Project Purpose: For construction of the digital research Factory of the Future at the University of Maine to advance large-scale, bio-based additive manufacturing using advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, and collaborative arrays of large 3D printers and subtractive systems. Funding leverages past federal funds secured by the congressional delegation, as well as funding from the Mills Administration’s Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, and will also support a second manufacturing bay and immersive workforce training facilities.

Composites Materials for Transportation Infrastructure and Resilience

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Orono, Maine

Amount Requested: $1,975,000

Project Purpose: To support  University of Maine research to develop composite materials that reduce the cost and improve resilience of vital transportation assets including bridges and coastal structures.

PFAS

PFAS Research Center at the University of Maine

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Orono, Maine

Amount Requested: $5,000,000

Project Purpose: To purchase the equipment needed to set up a PFAS analytical laboratory at the University of Maine, which would serve the monitoring needs of the entire State.

University of Maine PFAS Research Center: Informing Farm Management Decisions

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Orono, Maine

Amount Requested: $3,000,000

Project Purpose: To fund research at the University of Maine to help inform short-term management decisions for farms experiencing PFAS contamination.

Ticks

Tick-Borne Disease Prevention in Northern New England

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Orono, Maine

Amount Requested: $2,500,000

Project Purpose: To support the University of Maine Tick Lab’s establishment of a coordinated system of tick and tick-borne pathogen surveillance and risk communication in northern New England to address the staggering growth of the tick population in the region.

Tick-Borne Disease Management Strategies

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Orono, Maine

Amount Requested: $2,021,000

Project Purpose: For the University of Maine to identify alternatives to conventional pesticides designed to kill ticks and examine the intersection between climate and alternative tick management interventions.

Tick-Borne Disease Rural Public Health Outreach

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Orono, Maine

Amount: $1,653,000

Purpose: To support targeted public health outreach and education to rural communities led by the University of Maine in order to prevent tick-borne diseases.

Workforce/Business Development

Industry 4.0 Readiness System (House)

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Orono, Brunswick and South Portland

Amount: $7,000,000

Purpose: To support establishment of Manufacturing Training Innovation Centers that will coordinate efforts and leverage existing University of Maine Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMC) and Southern Maine Community College resources to serve industry, including Maine-based defense industry prime suppliers.

University of Maine System Nursing Education Simulation

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Augusta, Maine

Amount: $4,500,000

Purpose: To support facility expansion and simulation equipment to increase nursing enrollment and program quality at nursing schools throughout the University of Maine System. 

University of Maine Sawing Operations Training Facility (House)

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Old Town, Maine

Amount: $775,000

Purpose: To support construction of a sawing operations training facility at the University of Maine for that would support hands-on training of a minimum of 200 students and forest professionals annually with programming spanning across log grading and scaling training and value-added conversion of merchantable timber, creating additional value in Maine’s forest economy. 

Dental Workforce Training and Care Expansion to Northern Maine

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Presque Isle, Maine

Amount: $750,000

Purpose: To support the facility construction and equipment needs of a new dental lab at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, with the goal of training an additional 20 dental assistants annually through a partnership with the University of Maine at Augusta. 

University of Maine at Augusta Cybersecurity Professional Training

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Augusta, Maine

Amount: $500,000

Purpose: To support a cybersecurity training certification program offered by the University of Maine at Augusta for Maine municipalities and other public organizations that uses adjustable simulation models.

University of Maine at Augusta Aviation Maintenance Technician School

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Brunswick, Maine

Amount: $400,000

Purpose: To launch a higher education degree program at Brunswick Landing in aviation maintenance where University of Maine at Augusta students will learn how to repair and maintain certified aircraft, expanding the pipeline of aviation professionals to fill in-demand jobs.

Maine Entrepreneurship Fellowship and Incubator

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Orono, Maine

Amount Requested: $300,000

Project Purpose: To fund a University of Maine small business education fellowship program that will provide incubator support, technical assistance, and training to accelerate startup businesses and create jobs in Maine.

Maine Law School Legal Aid Clinic

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Portland, Maine

Amount: $17,000

Purpose: To expand Maine Law’s public service legal aid clinic to prepare students for professional practice, including by acquiring essential technology items for the clinic.

Seafood/Agriculture Research

Seawater Supply Lines for UMaine’s Coldwater Aquaculture Center

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Franklin, Maine

Amount Requested: $3,500,000

Project Purpose: Improvements to operations and security at USDA National Cold Water Marine Aquaculture Center and University of Maine Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research. 

Advancing Small Business Development

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Washington County, Maine

Amount Requested: $2,997,000

Project Purpose: To provide training and technical assistance to small wild blueberry growers and to support research and new technologies for sustainability and efficiency at the University of Maine’s Blueberry Hill Farm in Jonesboro. 

University of Maine Food Innovation Center

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Orono, Maine

Amount Requested: $2,500,000

Project Purpose: To grow Maine’s land- and water-based food economy by providing workforce development and services for small agriculture and aquaculture producers, including through food processing services, production scale-up, food safety consulting and testing at the University of Maine. Leverages funding from the Mills Administration’s Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan.

Maine Agriculture Industry Innovation and Growth

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Orono, Maine

Amount Requested: $1,000,000

Project Purpose: To develop a strategic plan led by the University of Maine to support Maine’s small-scale agricultural workforce and business growth.

Downeast Institute Marine Research

Recipient: Downeast Institute

Project Location: Beals, Maine

Amount Requested: $670,000

Project Purpose: To support shellfish research and hatchery activities at the facility that

serves as the marine research campus for the University of Maine at Machias. 

Facility Improvements

University of Maine at Fort Kent Facility Renovation

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Fort Kent, Maine

Amount Requested: $4,000,000

Project Purpose: To renovate an antiquated campus facility that is widely utilized by both the university and broader local community for essential education and cultural and community programming.

Cohen Institute

University of Maine Cohen Institute Public Service Education Partnership

Recipient: University of Maine System

Project Location: Orono, Maine

Amount: $464,000

Purpose: To support a partnership between the University of Maine Cohen Institute and Maine high schools to train the next generation of public service-minded leaders. Participating students will earn college credits while still in high school, engage in a residential leadership program on the UMaine campus, and receive active mentoring and support in post-graduation career placement.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, nagle@maine.edu