Regional Forest Economy Partnership (RFEP) Program
To assist rural communities, institutes of higher education and research, and economic development organizations in their efforts to transition the forest-based industry and its workforce to a focus on new technologies and viable business models across the 4-state region of Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont.
Applicant and/or Project Eligibility Requirements
Applicants must be in an eligible county across the 4-state region: Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont.
Program focuses on forest industry and associated workforce development. This includes new technology and innovations that seek to find new uses for forest products and evolve traditional forest economy business models into those that can create sustainable future commercial markets and opportunities. Decarbonization options may include, where appropriate, carbon sequestration and offset projects, use of biomass/wood products for energy and heat, and improvements to energy efficiency and resilience of forest industrial operations, downstream businesses, and related operations.
The Commission is required to annually assess the level of socioeconomic distress among the counties in its service area. Counties are designated as either Distressed, Transitional, or Attainment. “Distressed” counties are those that “have high rates of poverty, unemployment, or outmigration” and “are the most severely and persistently economic distressed and underdeveloped.” The NBRC is required to allocate 50% of total Appropriations to projects in counties falling within this designation. Commission grants within Distressed Counties only require a 20% match.
Unlike other NBRC programs, this program emphasizes the regional significance of a project and its context within the broader regional economy. Applicants should state whether (and if so, how) the project is complementary to a comprehensive regional plan, and/or statewide economic development priorities.
Past projects also include conversion of former mill sites into industrial parks and business incubators, construction of workforce housing, adaptive reuses of historic properties, and upgraded facilities to support forestry businesses. For more information on prior awardees, see here: https://www.nbrc.gov/userfiles/files/2021_RFEP_Documents/Regional%20Forest%20Economy%20Partnership%20Awards.pdf