BAR HARBOR — Gov. Janet Mills announced on Nov. 10 that she planned to invest $10 million in federal funds to help Maine seafood dealers and processors upgrade their infrastructure.
At a ceremony in Portland, Mills said the new Seafood Infrastructure Investment Program will launch early next year to provide grants to help Maine seafood dealers and processors spruce up their buildings, equipment and utilities.
“Helping our dealers and processors upgrade their infrastructure will ensure the strength and vitality of this industry for years to come, will keep Maine people working in our waters and waterfronts, and will keep delivering Maine’s world-class seafood across the globe,” Mills said in a statement.
The program will be administered by the state Department of Marine Resources and the agency will soon begin accepting applications. Grants sizes will vary. There will be smaller grants to help with improvements and larger grants to pay for capital projects.
New construction, upgrades to utilities and equipment for processing, manufacturing, packaging and handling will all be eligible for grants. Technology to increase capacity and business resilience will also be allowed.
Annie Tselikis, the executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealers Association, welcomed the support through the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, especially after the supply chain took a hit with the pandemic.
“In our industry, like so many others, necessity is the mother of invention, but invention always comes at a cost,” she said. “To date, there has not been a fund that directly or effectively mitigates the massive costs that Maine lobster wholesalers and processors experienced during the pandemic.”
Many of the state’s dealers and processors have had limited access to other COVID-19 federal relief programs but still took on big costs during the pandemic to continue operating, said Patrick Keliher, the DMR commissioner.
“This funding is designed to provide a flexible opportunity for businesses that wish to make investments that will enable greater resilience to changing market conditions in the future,” he said. “Such investments are critical to the stability of Maine’s seafood industry.”