Leaders thank congressional delegation for securing UMS workforce development and innovation funding
The bill on its way to the President’s desk includes $53 million in one-time federal funding, known as earmarks, for investments in the university that will directly benefit Maine
Thanks to the leadership of Maine’s congressional delegation, the omnibus spending bill passed today includes $53 million in one-time investments in infrastructure and initiatives that will allow Maine’s public universities to accelerate economic and community development across the state.
Many of the University of Maine System projects funded through the FY23 federal budget at the direct request of Sen. Susan Collins, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Sen. Angus King and Rep. Jared Golden, with the support of Rep. Chellie Pingree, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, will be led by the University of Maine, which in 2022 became the first institution in Maine to ascend to the top-tier of America’s research universities when it achieved R1 Carnegie Classification.
This includes a new PFAS testing and research lab and outreach program; modernization of the nation’s only dedicated wild blueberry research facility located in Jonesboro, and an aquaculture research and development center in Franklin to help those industries innovate with new products and processes; a food innovation center to support local food processing; and further funding toward construction of a cutting-edge Green Engineering and Materials Factory of the Future connected to UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center.
UMaine will also undertake the first-of-its-kind statewide tick and tick-borne disease study and conduct outreach to manage and mitigate threats to human health, and lead the collaborative creation of a roadmap for Maine’s agriculture economy.
“For every challenge confronting Maine, the University of Maine has unmatched research strength and strong community connections that, when catalyzed by this federal funding that leverages state investment and other external grants and contracts, can result in real solutions that will make a difference here in Maine,” said UMS Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation and UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy.
“We are so grateful for the ongoing partnership with our terrific delegation, which reflects a deep commitment to our state’s students and communities and the vital institutions like ours that serve them. While these investments will initially enhance university facilities and expand education and research programs, the impact will be that Mainers are better equipped with the knowledge, skills and innovations necessary to shape Maine’s future and its place in the world.”
The new appropriations will also launch or expand targeted education and workforce development programs offered through UMS universities and centers in Augusta, Bangor, Brunswick, Ellsworth, Farmington, Fort Kent, Machias, Orono, Portland, Presque Isle, Rumford and Rockland in areas of high employer need, including nursing, dental assisting, cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing, aviation maintenance, entrepreneurship, immigration law and forestry.
“On behalf of the entire University of Maine System, I want to thank the Maine congressional delegation for securing such significant federal funding that will directly strengthen our ability to serve the state through high-impact, high-quality education and research,” said Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “We are so grateful that Sens. Collins and King and Reps. Pingree and Golden value and understand our universities and their unique capacity to drive growth and opportunity across this state. This infusion of investment couldn’t come at a better time for our System and state, and truly demonstrates the commitment of the delegation and our public universities to Maine’s more prosperous future.”
With $1.3 billion in deferred maintenance, flat tuition, and modest state appropriations increases that fall short of rising compensation and other costs, the restoration of the federal earmark process offers Maine’s public universities an opportunity to finally advance long-needed and planned projects, though the one-time funds will not support ongoing operations.
For example, the budget on its way to President Joe Biden’s desk for signature includes $4 million requested by Sens. Collins and King to renovate 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.”
All of the UMS proposals were backed by letters of support from relevant industry, nonprofit and municipal partners noting the high-impact community benefit of the projects, including one that will enable the University of Maine at Augusta to bring its in-demand dental assisting and expanded functions dental assisting degree programs, currently offered in Bangor and Lewiston, to the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
“Aroostook County leads Maine in the percentage of its older residents who have lost all of their permanent teeth to dental diseases,” said UMPI President Ray Rice and UMA President Joe Szakas in a joint statement. “In addition to academic program startup costs, these funds requested by the County’s own Sen. Susan Collins as well as Sen. Angus King 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.”
An additional $74 million was included in the omnibus in support of direct requests from UMaine and the Maine congressional delegation to increase funding for key programs at federal agencies through which research and innovation initiatives at the flagship university are often funded. Education, research and economic, workforce and community development led by UMaine and other UMS universities will also be bolstered by other funding provided by the FY23 spending bill that faculty and staff will secure through competitive award processes administered by various federal agencies.
To learn more about the funded University of Maine System projects, please visit collins.senate.gov/newsroom.
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745; email@example.com