The head of the Wisconsin Paper Council says he’s “very optimistic” about securing an up to $100 million federal grant after Gov. Tony Evers announced the state would provide matching funds for the effort.
Wisconsin will be pitching in up to $8.2 million in matching funds to support the federal grant application spearheaded by the Paper Council, Evers said yesterday in a release.
“This is one piece of the puzzle for our application,” Wisconsin Paper Council President Scott Suder told WisBusiness.com.
The proposal from state paper and forestry industry stakeholders was among 60 around the country to get a $500,000 planning grant last year through the federal Build Back Better Challenge Grant program. The release shows applicants were asked to show they can provide at least $20 million in matching funds to qualify for the next round of $100 million grants.
“We asked the governor to assist us in that effort,” Suder (pictured here) said yesterday in an interview. “We’re very pleased that he has accepted that challenge and is going to provide some measure of matching funds should we receive that grant.”
Evers and WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes wrote a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo expressing support for the proposal. They noted the coalition has already raised more than $11.8 million from other sources, including businesses, individuals, nonprofits, and tribal and local governments.
“We want to assure you that the State of Wisconsin remains resolutely committed to ensuring the success of this project as well,” they wrote in the letter.
The Wisconsin coalition’s initial proposal, titled “A Wisconsin Forest Products Cluster: A Catalyst for Sustainable, Enduring Transformation,” highlighted the 35-county region of northern Wisconsin. It referenced proposed projects including a new research and development facility for the industry, training programs and efforts to create new markets for forestry products.
By implementing these and other projects in the proposal, the coalition estimates 2,500 new jobs and $2 billion in new economic output will be created over the next decade. The release from the guv’s office shows the state’s paper and forestry industry employs nearly 63,000 workers and makes up nearly $18 billion of Wisconsin’s manufacturing output.
Suder emphasized the bipartisan support for the application, calling the state pledge “part of a much larger effort from our diverse coalition.” He noted Republicans and Democrats are backing the application, and said a related legislative resolution is expected from both the Assembly and Senate “very soon.”
“This is really all hands on deck, and it is a really great example of bipartisan cooperation toward a goal of making certain that we’re ready for the future, to focus on innovation, and future markets, and research and development, diversification and diversity for Wisconsin’s forest products industries,” he said.
The application for the $100 million grant is due March 15, Suder said. He added coalition members will “work right up to the application deadline to make sure that we have every resource available to qualify for this.”
The Paper Council-led coalition also includes Mid-State Technical College, the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association, the Sustainable Resource Institute, UW-Stevens Point’s Institute for Sustainable Technology, Menominee Nation Tribal Enterprises, and the Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry.
See the coalition’s proposal overview: https://eda.gov/files/arpa/build-back-better/finalists/concept-proposal-narrative/Wisconsin%20Paper%20Council.pdf
–By Alex Moe