TRENTON — Governor Janet Mills stopped at the mussel farming plant Hollander & de Koning on Wednesday, June 29, to announce the distribution of more than $15 million in grants to local seafood dealers and processors.
The money, made up of funds from the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act and the USDA, will go to 107 businesses including Hollander & de Koning. The purpose of the funds, as expressed by the Governor during her press conference, is to help these companies make up for time lost due to the pandemic.
“My administration has worked hard to not only help Maine recover from the pandemic, but to move forward,” said Gov. Mills. “These funds will increase [seafood dealers and processors] resiliency from future market disruptions.”
According to the Governor’s office, businesses in every coastal county received awards, with over half coming in at more than $115,000. Alex de Koning, who runs Hollander & de Koning along with his family, offered a glimpse into what this money could help to accomplish.
“This funding enabled us to purchase a machine that produces mussel packaging for retail,” said de Koning as he and the Governor stood in front of the machine. “Because of this, we are proud to announce that, in partnership with our local distributor Maine Shellfish, we will be supplying over 150 Hannaford’s Supermarkets with fresh, local mussels … Our family is ecstatic to continue supporting our local communities by providing high-quality local seafood to Mainers.”
The delivery of mussels was scheduled to begin this week.
Hugh Reynolds, owner of Greenhead Lobster in Stonington, was also a recipient of the funds and offered his thanks to the Governor as well.
“Greenhead Lobster will use this grant to complete investments in innovation that will significantly increase the efficiency of our lobster processing. We are very proud to be a part of the Maine lobster industry and we are excited to use this funding to continue to contribute to its future.”
Seafood dealers and processors, as is the same with most industries, have had issues with staffing. Many of these businesses may be looking to use these funds to invest in automated technologies that would lessen the number of employees needed to run their facilities.
“The need to modify product lines and business practices to accommodate a changing supply chain and labor challenges has put many of these Maine businesses in a difficult financial position,” explained Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources. “This program will help them overcome the adversity they’ve endured and build a strong foundation for a prosperous future.”
“This industry is so vital to our economy and to our culture,” said Gov. Mills. “This is who we are.”